Thursday, March 31, 2016

ARC April!

I'm really excited to be participating in ARC April for the first time, hosted by Read Sleep Repeat !

My goals are the  ARCs on my Kindle, as well as my ARC TBR shelf, which I just organized today:

I will be keeping track of my progress here!

The Dead Lie Down by Sophie Hannah

What I love about Sophie Hannah's books is how expertly she confuses me. I never have a hold on where her stories are going, I'm never able to predict the ending, no matter how many psychological thrillers I've read before. She doesn't follow a formula, and each book is a unique ride of twists and turns that somehow all make sense by the time the last page is turned.

In The Dead Lie Down, Hannah starts from what seems to be an impossible premise. Ruth Bussey's boyfriend, Aidan Seed, has confessed to murdering a woman who is still alive. Ruth, hiding a terrible past of her own, is desperate to figure out the truth and somehow protect the life she has built on shaky foundations.

Art, class, love, sins, survival, resilience, and family all intertwine in an incredibly suspenseful story. Hannah beautifully uses alternating points of view, upping the tension even more. Just when something is about to be revealed, a new chapter starts, and the information you've been wanting to know so much is now another chapter away, making it impossible to put the book down.

If you love authors like Tana French, and are looking for another great psychological thriller to add to your to-be-read shelf, I highly recommend The Dead Lie Down. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Tragedy Girl by Christine Hurley Deriso

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 the review itself.

I liked this book. I suspect I would have really liked this book had I not recently been reading a slew of young adult mystery/thrillers, some of which had better twists and turns than Tragedy Girl. 

However, I did like this book, and enjoyed reading it. It is a very quick read which took me less than a day, and the protagonist is someone I definitely found myself rooting for. The mystery is an intriguing one as well, involving a mysterious drowning, a girl whose body was never found, anonymous notes, and a set of secrets no one seems willing to discuss.

The ending is one I predicted about ninety percent of, but it was still suspenseful, and I cared about what was going to happen. This may not be the best book of its genre I've read, but it was a good read nonetheless.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye and Book Haul Time!

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

"Reader, I murdered him."

This book was everything I was hoping for when I read the description. The heroine, Jane Steele, lives a Jane Eyre-esque life, and is also a serial killer. She does not set out to be one, but circumstances beyond her control place her in situations where she must act.

Jane Steele is a very strong character, strongly resembling Jane Eyre (the heroine of her own favorite book) if that Jane carried a knife in her skirts, and was willing and able to physically defend herself against all comers.

Sent to live a hard life at a boarding school as soon as she becomes an orphan, Jane Steele fights to escape what seems to be her destiny. Clawing her way up from circumstances that would defeat many, she applies for and gets the position of governess at her old childhood home, now under a new master.

Expecting to simply kill the new master, Mr. Thornfield, under the belief that she is the rightful heiress, Jane Steele finds that, when deep affection and love come into play, her future, and in fact her past, may not be what she believed.

This book was such a creative, well-written, enjoyable read. Faye does a fantastic job of making readers root for Jane Steele, and the characters all come to life brilliantly. There is even a well-done mystery interspersed through the latter half of the book, and multiple twists and turns surrounding misinformation and lies.

I highly recommend this book, not only for fans of Jane Eyre or crime books, but for readers who like a cleverly done novel with a strong female protagonist.

I'm on vacation visiting my brother and sister-in-law, and haven't been getting a ton of reading done because we've been gallivanting around, doing everything from seeing magic shows to going carpet skating. But today we had lunch across from a used bookstore, so of course I had to stop in, and of course I walked out with five books-I just can't resist!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of The Great Gatsby by Sarah Churchwell

I love true crime, and I love The Great Gatsby (I think its concluding sentences are honestly some of the finest ever written), so that I would love this book seemed like a given. And I did love this book, even more than I expected.

Churchwell explores the fascinating, heartbreaking, scandalous. and, yes, careless, lives of the Fitzgeralds. From Scott and Zelda's seemingly never-ending alcohol consumption and partying, to Scott's deep felt disappointment at the lack of commercial success for what he considered his finest writing, and Zelda's descent into a series of heartrending breakdowns, Churchwell makes their world and the time period they lived in come alive in vivid color.

Churchwell also expertly weaves in the still-unsolved Hall-Mills murder case, and how its scandal, adultery, and immediacy as (tabloid) newspaper fodder may have influenced The Great Gatsby.

History, mystery, and literary theory all combine to make for a fascinating non-fiction read.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Love But Haven't Talked About in a While (Or Talked About Enough)

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

1) Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

This has been a favorite of mine since high school, and I even wrote a paper on it for A.P. English when we got to choose our book.

2) A Man Lay Dead by Ngaio Marsh

I love Ngaio Marsh, and this is one of my favorites by her. It features the classic isolated country house, the "killer is one of us" trope I love so, and even a take on "The Murder Game" that ends in actual murder.

3) The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

I read this for a Russian Lit class in college, and it remains one of the best books I have ever read for school. I love it so much I made my dad read it, and then my friend brought me a copy back from her trip to Russia.

4) Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

I've talked about my love for Night Film quite a bit before, but this book was the one that first got me hooked on Pessl's amazing writing.

5) The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

It is impossible for me to talk about this book enough. It has been my favorite book for 20 years now, and I re read it at least once, if not more, every year.

6) The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale

One of my all-time favorite true crime books.

7) Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

This is one of those books I keep coming back to. It's so powerful, and so creative, and so well-written. 

8)  Soulless by Gail Carriger

 I adore this series. Carriger has done some amazing world building, all the characters are great, the protagonist is a strong smart woman, and there is a really wonderful romance.

9) Sharpe's Rifles by Bernard Cornwell

I don't usually enjoy books centered around wars, but I loved this book, and the series. My dad got me hooked on them, and we read all the books and watched all the movies.

10) Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce

This was another series I was completely hooked on. My mom got me the first book because she wanted me to have access to more literature with strong female protagonists. I read every book in the Song of the Lioness series, and much of what else Pierce wrote as well.

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Unforgotten by Laura Powell and A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

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.

Betty Broadbent is fifteen years old, living in a little village, helping her mother run a boarding house. Her life feels small and all too frequently frightening, due to her mother's "black monster" mood swings, and the sudden rash of murders of young women.

As the murder count rises, reporters crowd their boarding house, and Betty finds herself drawn to one in particular, the quiet, frequently taciturn, Mr. Gallagher.

Interspersed among this past timeline, readers are introduced in the present to Mary, a woman with secrets and struggles who seems to have some tie to the events of the past.

This is a murder mystery that is strongly character driven. The mystery frequently takes a backseat to what is happening between Betty and her mother, Betty and her friend, Betty and Mr. Gallagher, and the mysterious Mary. But the book does not suffer from this. The detailed development of the time, place, and people add an urgency and an emotional connection to the book readers cannot help but feel.

I did end up predicting a lot of what was revealed about the mystery, including some of the bigger twists. But the end reveal completely shocked me, and had me thinking back over the whole book to see what I had missed.

The minute I saw the description of this book, I knew I had to read it. It combines so many tropes and genres I love-reality shows (and a paranormal one to boot), urban legends, a past that may not be what everyone believes it to be, secrets, unreliable narrators, horror, mystery, and even some creative use of outside media brought into the text (in this case, a blog). In short, this was a book I was desperate to read, and this was a book that was a really good read.

We are introduced to Merry, eight years old when the events filmed on The Possession took place, now grown up and telling her story to a writer. As Merry tells about her sister and the terrifying changes that took place around her, about her father's dependence on religion and his desperate turn to an exorcism (and the promised money from the reality show) to fix everything, about her mother's descent into drinking and depression, we are taken back into the past, shown the beginning, middle, and end of this terrifying tale. This is interspersed with a horror blogger who describes in detail the various episodes of The Possession, and analyzes them at length.

But is what we are being told the truth? Merry is an unreliable narrator, not only because of her young age when the events she describes took place, but because she readily admits that watching The Possession and reading articles on it may have caused her memories to warp and blur. What she thinks she remembers may not have actually happened that way.

And that is what is most amazing about this book, in the end. The terror builds until it is almost unbearable, the shocking revelation comes, and as readers are left in shock, they are also left wondering if Merry has just fed them over a hundred pages of lies, and, if so, if she did this on purpose.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Mean Sisters by Lindsay Emory

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.

Note: The American edition of this book is titled Sisterhood is Deadly.

This is a gloriously fun book. The protagonist, Margot, is so likable and relatable, one of the most enjoyable protagonists and narrators I've encountered in my reading recently. Sure, many of us (myself included) don't know what it's like to be in charge of a sorority, or attempt to solve multiple murders, but that's the magic of what Emory does here. Even in the midst of all the absolute craziness, you still want to grab a venti latte with Margot and chat for hours.

The plot itself surrounds a murder mystery with some great twists and surprises. Margot is so loyal to her sorority that as an alumna she travels around the country advising various branches. But now she is back at her alma mater, and a sorority sister has just dropped dead during a chapter meeting.

Murder, mystery, and mayhem commence, and even in some particularly emotional moments that really do make you think, Margot keeps her wits and her wittiness about her. There are some great supporting characters as well, especially her best friend Casey, and a hint of a romance with a handsome cop that is hopefully leading somewhere.

I really hope there are more Sorority Sister mysteries to come!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books On My Spring TBR

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

1) I've been waiting for this one to come out for a while now! I too am a true crime addict, and the Maura Murray case is fascinating, and one I just started learning about.

2) and 3) These both look like great, creepy, young adult mysteries.

4) I love Sophie Hannah, especially now that she's taken on writing the new Hercule Poirot mysteries. I'm trying to read everything she's written now.

5) I have high hopes for a psychological thriller being billed as the next Gone Girl or Girl on the Train.

6) This is another creepy looking young adult mystery, involving secrets from the past.

7) This is being billed as a modern take on And Then There Were None, one of my all-time favorite books.

8) This book is being compared to The Virgin Suicides, and appears to be about either a Manson-like cult, or the Manson Family themselves.

9) A psychological thriller with a recommendation from Sophie Hannah-I'm sold.

10) Essentially Jane Eyre as a serial killer!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Death With an Ocean View by Noreen Wald

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.

In this fun, light cozy mystery, Wald introduces readers to Kate Kennedy, a widow living in Florida adjusting to her new life. What brings her out of her self-imposed shell, besides the ministrations of her long-time best friend, is a shocking murder on the beach below her condo.

Local politics, love affairs, zoning rights, tell-all articles, and Hearts games combine to form a quick read with some well-done twists and turns. The characters are well-differentiated, and there are some really funny, clever scenes, as well as more heartfelt moments as Kate reflects on the life she never expected to be living.

My issue is with the epilogue. It's really short, just a few paragraphs, and just throws out there a major, major secret that comes out of left field. The epilogue seems completely tacked on, and undermines one of the most important relationships in the pages that had preceded it.

If you just ignore the epilogue, this is a quick, easy, fun mystery that doesn't require much thinking, which can be a very welcome thing.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Relic by Gretchen McNeil and Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon

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.

Relic centers around Annie, our narrator, and her boyfriend and their group of friends. They have just graduated high school, and are determined to have a summer of "no regrets" before they separate to attend college. To this end, they lie to their parents, and sneak out to an island to drink and explore the mysterious mines.

This book has a lot of characters and scenarios that have been seen in many books before. There is the strong but insecure main female character, who loves her boyfriend but isn't ready to "go all the way", the ex-girlfriend who is gorgeous but mean, the best friend who worries all the time, the conspiracy theorist who can always score good drugs...

But where McNeil makes her book stand out is the well plotted out mystery and horror that accompany these characters after their ill-fated island trip. After the first few chapters, there is almost constant tension and suspense about just what exactly is going on, and if it can be stopped.

Relic sometimes veers over into overly dramatic territory, with the group of friends concerned that if they don't go all out this summer, one of them may suffer a breakdown in college because they don't know how to be independent and have rule-breaking fun. The romances can also seem a little forced and out of place with all the murder and mayhem happening around them.

But despite its flaws, Relic is a quick, gripping read. McNeil seems to be growing as a writer from her earlier works, and I look forward to seeing what comes next.

Advance warning: This is not a light read, but it is a good one. It centers around the titular Jake, who is missing after a school shooting. The police and neighbors seem to instantly think the worst of Jake, and thus are searching for him as a suspect, not a boy in need of help. But the narrator, Simon, Jake's father (a stay-at-home-dad), is determined to find Jake and help him, whatever he needs.

The story goes back and forth in time, from before Jake was born, when Simon and his wife decided she would go back to work and he would stay at home to take care of their children, to right before the shooting, to after the tragic event. Through this device, Reardon really allows his readers to get to know Jake, Simon, and their family outside of the high-stakes of the present-day events.

Reardon tackles some very heavy topics-violence, what causes it, modern-day witch hunts, innate personalities, parenting, gender roles, and moral codes-and handles them well. Finding Jake gets its point across without being heavy handed or preachy, and is a suspenseful, haunting read.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage

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

Stick with this book.

It starts out with a bang, then seems to drift around somewhat, going back and forth in time, getting in the heads of so many different characters you may find yourself unsure if you are keeping track of them all correctly.

But stick with this book. It all has a purpose, a beautifully written, haunting purpose.

All Things Cease to Appear is the story of families, of tragedies, of love and lack thereof, of men and women and children. It is the story of murder, of societal expectations, of religion and disbelief, of the past and present and what it means when they collide.

Brundage is not afraid to tackle massive topics, and she handles them beautifully. There is so much to unpack in this novel, the kind of story you can imagine a college professor (somewhat ironically, given events in the story) teaching to their Literature students. But it's also a story that can be read, absorbed, and thought about in the comfort of your living room, on the train on the way to work, during a lunch break.

Stick with this book. It is so very, very worth it.

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender

YA Horror/Paranormal/Supernatural

There is a really good book in here, even though the book as is is disappointingly lacking. With a great editor, The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall could be a thrilling, scary read, with a fascinating mystery to solve.

But the mystery, in fact, all the exciting parts, essentially get buried in the last third of the book. Alender spends page after page describing how time can slow down for ghosts, and makes the reader feel each minute of the years a ghost might spend lying on the grass or sitting in a room. Then, in the last third, secrets are revealed, foes are fought, and every page is full of action. But all the reveals and running around, while really interesting, feel really rushed as well.

I wish that Alender had made this a shorter book. If she had cut out some of the more repetitive parts, there would have been more room to explore the core of the book-the mystery behind Hysteria Hall, and what that means for all who have entered its doors. This would have made the book great, instead of just okay.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Remembrance by Meg Cabot

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

I was really excited to hear this book was coming out, and even more excited to get an ARC of it. Meg Cabot was one of my favorite writers when I was a teenager, and I read her more adult books as I got older. I had loved The Mediator series as a teen, falling in love with Suze and Jesse and their story, and to have it continued so many years later was a great surprise.

Remembrance is not for a young adult audience. Meg Cabot has specifically said this is The Mediator book for her fans who have grown up. While there isn't really any explicit language, there are lots of hints at it, as well as some violence, a dark situation involving a ghost, and some sexual situations.

If you haven't read the previous books in this series, you can still enjoy this book, but I think you definitely get a lot more out of it if you were a fan from the start. It's rare to get to have a series you loved growing up continued, especially to have it continued by the original author, and this was a special treat.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Holding Court by K.C. Held, and Knit One Kill Two by Maggie Sefton

YA Mystery

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

Juliet Verity has the misfortune (in her opinion) of being from a family with psychic gifts. Her gift, or curse as she sees it, is spontaneously blurting out prophetic sentences that make absolutely no sense at the time.

When she takes a summer job at Tudor Times, nothing seems to be going right. Her costume could not be more unflattering, she has to spend every day close to her unattainable long-time crush, and she stumbles onto a dead body that is gone by the time she can bring anyone back to see it.

But Jules knows what she saw, and she's determined to get to the bottom of this mystery. And if some of her predictions come true along the way, and her unrequited love seems just that little bit more requited, all the better.

This is a read that is just plain fun. Juliet is a great character, full of sarcasm, wit, and The Princess Bride quotes. Her love interest is cute, and funny, and even his girlfriend, who in most books the readers would be supposed to hate, is sweet. The mystery is a good one, full of twists and turns, secret passageways, missing pearls, and scuttling around an old castle.

I hope Held brings Juliet and her friends back for another mystery. I would definitely read it.

Cozy Mystery

In this genre cozy mystery, the main theme is knitting, in particular an amazing little knitting shop located right by the protagonist's aunt's house. 

Kelly Flynn has inherited her beloved Aunt Helen's home, and is immediately swept out of her stressful city life and into the relaxing, loving small town life she remembers from her childhood. She makes friends, and even begins to knit, but her aunt's murder continues to haunt her. 

Kelly believes her aunt wasn't killed by an interrupted intruder, but a cold-blooded killer.

With the help of her new friends, and a possible love interest, Kelly sets out to bring her aunt's killer to justice.

I love cozy mysteries, and this was an especially enjoyable one. The knitting scenes, particularly the descriptions of the yarns, made me want to become a knitter. The characters are all well-developed, and the mystery has a lot of good red herrings and twists. The only thing really that was at all a negative was that Kelly's initial strong dislike of her now-possible love interest seemed really out of left field, and didn't make a lot of sense.