Wednesday, September 30, 2015

One Lovely Blog Award, and Sunshine Blogger Award

My first awards! I'm so excited!

Thank you very much to the wonderful The Reading Armchair for both nominations!

The rules for this award are:

  • Say thank you to the person that nominated you
  • Explain the rules of the award
  • Say seven random facts about yourself
  • Nominate 15 other bloggers
  • Display the badge/logo of the award in your blog
So, seven random facts about myself: 
  1. I read while I walk.
  2. My best friend and I first met when we were six.
  3. I moved recently, to an apartment I absolutely love, that has a super cozy reading corner.
  4. My favorite artist is Claude Monet.
  5. I would love to have a room in my future house that is a giant library, with one of those rolling ladders, and a fireplace.
  6. My dog, Sherlock, is a rescue dog. 
  7. I have been a Pre-K teacher for five years now.

The rules for this award are:
  • Answer the 11 questions provided for you
  • Nominate other bloggers
  • Ask them 11 questions of your own
The questions I got asked, with answers:
  1. Which is your most anticipated novel?  The third book from Will Lavender, which is currently untitled.
  2. Do you read graphic novels? Which is your favorite one? I do read graphic novels, though not frequently. My favorite is definitely From Hell.
  3. What was your favorite book so far this year? It's so hard for me to pick just one! The Girl on the Train is definitely up there for me, as is Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. I also loved The Night Sister, and Luckiest Girl Alive. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up had a big impact on my life this year as well. 
  4. Do you like winter? I actually really do like winter. I love having the perfect excuse to cozy up under a warm blanket with my dog, a cup of tea, and a good book, or take a long hot bath, or wear cozy sweaters and jeans.
  5. How would you like to spend this Halloween? I would like to spend it the way I do every year, on my parents' front porch handing out candy and hanging out.
  6. Who are your top three authors? Agatha Christie is my absolute favorite author. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle rounds out my top two. And then I have a really hard time settling on a third. Ngaio Marsh, Erle Stanley Gardner, Gillian Flynn, Marisha Pessl, Will Lavender, and P.D. James all would be way up there for me.
  7. Is there a series you would like to be continued, although it doesn't? I would always want there to be more Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple books. I was thrilled when The Monogram Murders came out, for that exact reason. 
  8. How do you choose which book to read next? For me, it really depends on what I'm in the mood for. I have a lot of TBR shelves in my apartment, and live relatively close to a very big library, so I'm lucky in that I have lots of choices available depending on what I feel like reading.
  9. Would you buy a book because it has a beautiful cover? Most likely, I would only buy a book because it has a beautiful cover if its an Agatha Christie. I collect Agatha Christie's, and want to someday own a copy of every cover version of all her books.
  10. Do you prefer detailed descriptions or witty dialogues in a novel? I definitely prefer dialogue over prolonged descriptions. I tend to lose patience with very long descriptions.
  11. Which book would you recommend? I would recommend The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. Its been my favorite book for twenty years now, and I re read it at least once a year.

My questions for the nominees:
  1. What's one book you started, but never finished?
  2. What was your favorite book you had to read for school?
  3. If you could only take three books with you on a long trip, which three would they be?
  4. What book would you love to see turned into a TV series?
  5. Is there one genre of book you never read?
  6. Where is your favorite place to read?
  7. Which fictional setting would you love to visit the most?
  8. Do you collect anything, and if so, what?
  9. What was the first book you ever read?
  10. What's one popular series/book you've just never been able to get into?
  11. Do you like hot weather or cold weather better?
I nominate for both awards (I'm new to the book blogging world, and am still navigating my way around the many incredible blogs, so apologies if I nominate someone who was already nominated, or miss anyone):

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books To Read If You Like Sherlock Holmes

I love Sherlock Holmes-my dog is even named Sherlock! So I've read a lot of Sherlock Holmes books outside of the original canon (those penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle).  Here are ten of my favorites to check out if you really enjoyed Doyle's original stories.

1. The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King

I tend to struggle with books about Sherlock Holmes that take too much liberty with the canon and change it too much-i.e. minimize Watson's role. But King won me over with this far-outside-the-box idea that really works. My blog's name is even a takeoff on the title of this book. The series loses steam after the first few entries or so, and I've actually stopped reading it now, but those first few books are magic.

2. Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong: Reopening the Case of The Hound of the Baskervilles by Pierre Bayard

Bayard takes the case of The Hound of the Baskervilles and does a deep and fascinating analysis of it, developing his hypothesis that Holmes accused the wrong person. Bayard also wrote a book analyzing The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, in which he offers his proof that Hercule Poirot accused an innocent person. Bayard's books are absolutely fascinating for fans of the original stories he is breaking apart, and I have read each multiple times.

3. The Italian Secretary by Caleb Carr

I discussed how much I love this book in a previous post, but needless to say, Carr is an incredible author, and the weaving together of a real historical mystery with the beloved characters of Holmes and Watson results in a book you can't put down.


4. The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession by David Grann

This is a collection of non-fiction stories centered around the mysterious, a topic Holmes himself loved to investigate. One of the true tales is specifically linked to Sherlock Holmes, surrounding the bizarre death of a Holmes scholar. 


5. Arthur and George by Julian Barnes

While this is not a non-fiction novel, it is based closely off a true story involving an unjustly accused man whose case catches the attention of the famous creator of Sherlock Holmes.


6. The Sherlockian by Graham Moore

The Sherlockian contains two parallel tales. In one, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has just killed off his beloved character Sherlock Holmes, and, along with Bram Stoker, is hunting for a murderer. In the present day, a dedicated fan of Holmes attempts to solve the mysterious death of a Sherlockian scholar who had claimed to have found the long-missing diary of Doyle himself. 


7. The Art of Detection by Laurie R. King

King is the author of the previously mentioned Mary Russell series. But here, she combines her other series, the Kate Martinelli mysteries, with the great Sherlock Holmes. A Sherlock Holmes collector has been murdered, and a previously undiscovered Sherlock Holmes story may just hold all the clues.

8. Some Danger Involved by Will Thomas

The main characters of Cyrus Barker and Thomas Llewelyn reminded me immediately of Holmes and Watson when I first read this book. Barker is a brilliant private detective who cannot be bothered with the trivialities of polite society, while Llewelyn is his devoted assistant who has quite a bit of fight in him as well. 


9. A Life in Letters by Jon L. Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower, and Charles Foley
10. Teller of Tales by Daniel Stashower

Both of these reads are biographies of the creator of Sherlock Holmes himself. They offer fascinating insight into the man who is responsible for one of the most famous literary creations of all time.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Banned Books Week: My Recommendations of Frequently Challenged Books to Read

In honor of Banned Books Week, I wanted to recommend some frequently challenged books that I have personally read and enjoyed.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Furies by Natalie Haynes

"In Greek and Roman mythologythe Furies were female spirits of justice and vengeance."

The Furies opens by letting the readers know something has happened, something terrible enough to prompt the narrator to write this account, something she refers to as monstrous.

What we know for sure is something tragic happened to Alex Morris' fiancee, something that prompted her to completely leave her old life behind and begin teaching drama therapy at "The Unit", a place for troubled children who have been expelled from their previous schools.

Alex thinks the children need someone to treat them like adults, to believe in them and their potential. So she begins teaching them about the Greek tragedies, about revenge and death and fate. But she never could have guessed how deeply one of her students would take her lessons to heart.

This book is a study in suspense, a commentary on violence and grief, and an examination of how deeply troubled a child can become when the world has turned its back on them-and how they can become fixated on the one person and thing that seem to suddenly hold meaning and hope. 

4/5 stars

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten

I'm not sure how I feel about this book.

What I do know is I didn't love it. But I also didn't hate it, or dislike it really.

I first came across this book at a recent ALA convention. From the description on the inside cover, it sounded right up my mystery-loving alley. A mysterious death, secrets from the past, a narrator who maybe isn't telling the readers everything they know...I have read and loved many creative takes on these themes.

The first half of Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls is that really gripping, mysterious read. I didn't want to put the book down. I had to find out what happened.

And then...I did. It was definitely a twist, and a really interesting one. But then it was like Weingarten didn't know where to go from there. The book became a strange mashup, where it seemed like Weingarten was trying to make some sort of commentary on society at large, but got lost along the way. And with her lost, the mystery got lost too. The ending felt ambiguous for the sake of being "edgy" and came out of left field.

The first half of the book, I would give 4 stars out of 5. For the book as a whole, I give it 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books On My Fall TBR

I decided to go with books that I really want to read that are being released this fall, or were released this month. So here are ten books I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on!


1. The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

2. Furious Happy by Jenny Lawson


3. The Last of the President's Men by Bob Woodward


4. Art in the Blood by Bonnie Macbird


5. The Lost Girl by R.L. Stine

6. The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz

7. Welcome to Nightvale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor


8. Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton


9. Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse

10. The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

Monday, September 21, 2015

Mystery Monday: Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich

I love the Stephanie Plum series. They are guaranteed to make me laugh out loud, and feel good, no matter what else is going on in life at that moment.

This entry in the series is no exception.

Top Secret Twenty-One has Stephanie attempting to bring in a few interesting people who missed their court dates, including a man who thinks he is Gru from Despicable Me and has a pack of "minion" chihuahuas. Her hilarious grandmother is running around trying to knock items off her bucket list-including throwing pies. Her apartment and cars keep getting blown up. Bodies keep turning up, ruining the brand new rug. And there is a dangerous criminal out there with his sights set on Stephanie.

4/5 stars

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sherlock Holmes Sunday: The Italian Secretary by Caleb Carr

The Italian Secretary by Caleb Carr

This is by far one of my absolute favorite Sherlock Holmes' stories outside of the canon. Carr is a masterful author (of another of my favorite books, The Alienist), so I could not have been more excited when I found out he would be writing a Sherlock Holmes novel.

This book also holds a special place on my favorites list because, after reading the book, I was able to visit the room in Scotland where the slaying of David Rizzio took place. This really made the book come alive for me, to be able to stand in a place where so much of the story takes place.

Carr does an excellent job of weaving together true crime, history, and the famous Sherlock Holmes. The dual mysteries of present murders and past horrors are gripping and full of twists and turns. The past resonates deeply in this story, and Carr explores just how much Rizzio's murder (and the possible supernatural effects, a notion Holmes scoffs at) could possibly influence a very-much alive Victorian murderer.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

True Crime Thursday: People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry

It quickly becomes clear why this book was shortlisted for so many awards. Parry spent ten years researching the case, interviewing involved parties, attending trials, and talking with the police.

All this research made it possible for him to create an in-depth, thorough account of Lucie Blackman, a young British woman who went missing in Japan. She was working as a hostess in the Rappongi district; her job involved making conversation with Japanese men. When she went missing, many believed her disappearance must have somehow been connected to her job, to the fact that she was a beautiful foreigner-or, as a mysterious phone call claimed, because she had joined a religious cult.

This was a case I knew nothing about, but by the time I finished this gripping read, I felt completely informed and emotionally invested. The only time Parry went awry was in the very last chapter, when he abandoned his research to wax philosophically on life and death.

This is a book about a terrible crime, but it is also about family ties, culture, the role of women, the legal system, and how one act can have reverberations for generations to come.

4/5 stars

(Read for Readers Imbibing Peril)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten of My Favorite Agatha Christie Novels

(Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish: The Broke and the Bookish )
As this Top Ten Tuesday is a freebie week, and today is what would have been Agatha Christie's 125th birthday, I had to talk about ten of my favorite books from my favorite author.

1) And Then There Were None

Mix a terrifying island cut off from the rest of the civilization, ten strangers all accused of various horrific crimes, mysterious deaths that match a nursery rhyme, and the very scary realization that the murderer is somewhere among them, and Agatha Christie had an absolute classic on her hand. This is a book that stands up to repeated re readings. Just writing this makes me want to pick it up again.

2) The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Christie sets the precedent here for one of the greatest, most shocking twists to ever be written. This is another one where you want to re read it as soon as you finish it.

3) Endless Night

This is another Christie with an epic twist. Christie also creates an incredibly creepy and haunting atmosphere that you won't soon forget.

4) Peril at End House

This novel has a very colorful cast of characters, plus Hercule Poirot, plus a masterful use of red herrings.

5) A Murder is Announced 

This one will always have a special place in my heart, as it was the first Agatha Christie I ever read. I still have the copy my Bubbe gave me. Plus, it is a fascinating concept, where a murder is actually advertised before it occurs.

6) Cards on the Table

What happens when a true crime aficionado decides to collect the acquaintance of people he believes got away with murder?

7) The Tuesday Club Murders

This is a collection of interconnected short stories. The concept is that a group holds meetings where each member is responsible for sharing a true crime that only they know the solution to, and the other members must try to figure out the solution themselves.

8) The A.B.C. Murders

In this novel, Christie truly proves why she is the mistress of misdirection. Plus, the idea of a murderer choosing his victims alphabetically is very creepy.

9) Murder on the Orient Express

A snowbound train is naturally a tense and frightening place, and Christie adds in an expertly done mystery from the past to compound the murder in the present. This novel truly has one of Christie's best endings.

10) The Mysterious Affair at Styles

It's hard to top the original!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Mystery Monday: A Few Cozy Favorites

Sometimes I need a mystery that is light, fun, and cozy. I'm usually up for trying any genre mystery, but these are some series that I have had a lot of fun with so far.

*The Bad Hair Day Mysteries by Nancy J. Cohen

The protagonist, Marla Shore, is a beauty salon owner who keeps finding herself entangled in mysterious murders. The Florida setting is very vivid, and Cohen has a great sense of humor in her stories. The characters are unique and fun as well, and the romance is one to root for.

*Heather Wells Mysteries by Meg Cabot

Heather Wells is one of my favorite cozy mystery protagonists. She is funny, real, and smart. She is also a former pop star who now is an assistant dorm director at a New York college. You will fall in love with Heather, and the mysteries are really creative too.

*Sophie Katz mysteries by Kyra Davis

Davis' protagonist is a mystery writer herself, addicted to caffeine and tough as nails. She's like a modern noir heroine in my opinion, able to take care of herself, solve mysteries, and throw back Frappuchinos like they're water.