Wednesday, June 29, 2016

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

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.

This is a book told backwards. 

Readers are given a hint of the ending to come, and then thrust two weeks back in time, day by day. Day 1 is the last day readers are allowed access to, and by the time we find ourselves all the way back to this start, it is to find ourselves gripped and guessing and completely surprised by the shocking revelations to come.

This is a book told backwards for multiple purposes. This is not a device simply to be different, to sell books by being creative. Miranda creates so much tension, so much suspense, and her characters' revelations (even regarding why the book is structured the way it is) are brilliantly orchestrated shocks to the system.

This is a mystery about missing girls, years apart, but seemingly still connected. It is a story about love, about running away from the past, about families who are tied to their past but just can't seem to stay connected to each other. This is a book about loss, and the inability to move on.

This is a brilliant book, a gripping mystery, and a story that will stay with you long after you reach the beginning of the end.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Endgame by Jeffrey Round

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.

Here's a fact about me. If you tell me a book is based on And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, I will want to read it. Even if it's centered around punk rock (a music genre I have little interest in or knowledge about), as Endgame is, I will be desperately hoping I will get picked to get an ARC.

Here's an opinion about Endgame. It is a good, clever book. It's even better than I had hoped it would be.

I think where Round sets himself up for success is how he faithfully paints his homage to the original brilliant "the killer is one of us" novel, while subtly updating it to fit his needs and modern times. The island is rumored to be owned by a pop star rather than a movie star, there is a DVD instead of a record, and a punk rock song in place of a poem.

While in my eyes no book, no matter how inspired, can ever be as good as And Then There Were None, Round does an excellent job here. I read this book in a day because I could not put it down. I had to know who the murderer was, and while my suspicions were correct (due perhaps to my innumerable re readings of the original source material), this did not lessen my enjoyment one bit---especially as I did not decide on who I truly suspected until the last few chapters, due to Round's expert placement of red herrings.

One does not need to be familiar with, or interested in, punk rock to enjoy this book. Round, through his characters, gives readers the information they need, whether through fictional magazine articles or reminiscences about Sid Vicious.

I highly recommend this book. It is one of the best homages to And Then There Were None I have read.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Walt by Russell Wangersky

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.

I'm not one for extreme blood and gore.

This may seem like a strange statement coming from a bookworm who loves mysteries and true crimes. But my favorite mysteries are ones that take place in small villages and snowed-in mansions, and there are certain true crimes I cannot read about.

So I really liked how cleverly Wangersky played with the idea of violence in Walt. The violence is completely implicit, but no less terrifying for that. In fact, the book is made far eerier by what the readers don't see. We are forced to trust what Walt tells us, and Walt could very well be a stalker and serial killer.

Walt works in a grocery store, cleaning up the messes left by people who never even notice he's there. He picks up their discarded grocery lists, envisioning their lives based off what they set out to buy. He follows them home, finding their information from the junk mail they obliviously scrawl their lists on.

And maybe he kills them too.

The police certainly suspect him of killing his missing wife. And then there's the woman whose diary entries readers are made privy to...

This is a quick, creative read--and one that definitely shouldn't be read on a bus late at night, or before bed--it will have you looking over your shoulder and questioning every shadow.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Nonna's Book of Mysteries by Mary Osborne and Buzz Off by Hannah Reed

What I think I enjoyed the most about this book was how wonderfully strong, determined, and smart the protagonist is. Emilia Serafini is a fourteen year old girl coming of age in Renaissance Italy, and all she wants is to be a painter. This is not a typically achievable goal for a woman in that time period, but Emilia refuses to give up, even fighting against the marriage her father has already arranged for her.

To help her, Emilia relies on her book, A Manual to the Science of Alchemy, a tome that has been passed down the matrilineal line of her family for generations. This book, combined with Emilia's determination, grit, and talent, may just be enough to see her to her dreams.

Nonna's Book of Mysteries contains a delightfully varied cast of supporting characters, from villains, to love interests, to mentors and friends. But it is Emilia that is the real star of the story, and rightly so.

This was a really fun cozy mystery, and that's coming from someone who is petrified of bees.

The main character, Story Fischer, absolutely loves bees. She is an apprentice beekeeper, a very recent divorcee, and the owner of the local grocery store in her small town. Things seem to be looking up--until her beekeeper mentor is found dead and everyone in town begins to panic and blame his bees.

What I especially liked about this book was that the mystery stayed front and center. The beekeeping and honey-making aspects were definitely important and frequently referenced, but it was the mystery that was the focus.

What I didn't love about the book was the author's insistence on putting in character quirks that, to me at least, felt not only unnecessary, but off putting in some instances. Story has a thing for men's feet that comes up multiple times in the beginning, serves no purpose in the story, and is then never talked about again (thank goodness). Story's sister also talks in irritating internet slang abbreviations, which Reed then has to translate for the readers.These strange details are not necessary-the characters are more than strong enough to stand on their own.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

True Crime and Thriller Thursday: I'm Thinking of Ending Things, Agatha, and The Jolly Roger Social Club

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.

"Something that disorients, that unsettles what's taken for granted, something that disturbs and disrupts reality--that's scary."

This quote sums up Reid's brilliant, eerie, disorienting thriller perfectly. In I'm Thinking of Ending Things, Reid seems to be telling the simple story of a couple, possibly on the verge of a breakup, on a road trip to visit the man's parents.

But nothing seems quite right. And that is the brilliance of this book, and of Reid's writing. Little things feel off, appear strange, building the tension until it's almost unbearable. The reader has to keep going on this not-quite-normal journey, no matter how frightening it gets.

You have to find out how it ends. Because let me tell you, not only will you not be able to put this book down, but the ending will absolutely leave you breathless.

Reid reminds me of authors like Shirley Jackson, who take a seemingly ordinary, possibly mundane, slice of life, and completely turn it on its head with a slow buildup that always packs the most eerie of punches.

Agatha: The Real Life of Agatha Christie is a graphic novel telling the story of Agatha Christie's life and most famous works. Interspersed throughout are appearances from her characters, including Tommy and Tuppence, Miss Marple, and, most frequently, Hercule Poirot.

This is an excellent, creative endeavor that manages a new take on the truth of Christie's life. It opens with her infamous and still unsolved disappearance, then takes readers back to the beginning of young Agatha's life, her relationship with her father, her first marriage, her divorce, her second marriage, her child, her travels...and all along, her writing.

I would definitely recommend this for anyone who is a fan of Agatha Christie.

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 The Jolly Roger Social Club, Foster tells the tale of William "Wild Bill" Holbert, an American expat held in a Panamanian prison on the charge of murdering five people. Holbert, a real estate scam artist, was a man driven by greed and the desire for power, who thought he was always one step ahead of everyone around him.

The title of this book comes from the small bar that Holbert ran in Bocas del Toro, where fellow men and women, who had left America for what they viewed as paradise, would gather for greasy food and liquor. None of them seemed to have any idea that there was a serial killer lurking behind the bar.

Throughout the tale of Holbert and his victims, Foster intersperses the history and culture of the land Holbert coveted so deeply. This is an author who has clearly done his research, and it shows.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

What We're Reading Wednesday: June 15, 2016

I just started this cozy mystery ARC as my phone read for while I walk my dog. I'm just about two chapters in, but I'm definitely enjoying it. It has a great small town setting.


I'm just over three quarters of the way through Nonna's Book of Mysteries, and I currently want to yell at the protagonist for the choice she's currently making--which is a good thing, because it means I'm really invested in the story! Poirot Investigates continues to be a wonderful read. I really enjoy Agatha Christie's short story collections because you get all the punch of her twists and turns but in a compact format, with multiple denouncements.

Agatha is a fantastic graphic novel my dad surprised me with for my birthday. It tells the story of Agatha Christie's life, interspersed with the lives of the characters she created. I'm expecting to finish it tonight.

This is my current Kindle read, and I am finding it absolutely fascinating. I'm about a third of the way through, and the tension is expertly building in a way that is making this psychological thriller impossible to put down.

This is my current hard copy read, an ARC I got from LibraryThing. I'm nearing the end of this true crime tale as well. It centers around a couple who went on a spree of fraud and murder for years, virtually undetected.

What are you reading this Wednesday?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Releases I'm Highly Anticipating in the Second Half of the Year

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

This is absolutely my most anticipated release of the year. Agatha Christie is my all-time favorite author, Sophie Hannah is brilliant, and I really enjoyed The Monogram Murders. I've had this one pre-ordered since I first heard it was coming out.

I love this kind of psychological thriller/mystery, full of conflicting stories and lots of secrets. I'm strongly considering pre-ordering this one as well.

I'm fascinated by anything about Jack the Ripper, and with the James Patterson stamp on this, I'm definitely sold.

I love the Flavia de Luce books and can't wait for this new entry in the series.

Ever since I read a non-fiction book on the subject, I've been fascinated by internet detectives taking on cold cases. Plus, I have really enjoyed some of Shepard's other books (though I gave up on both series eventually).

I'm pretty much guaranteed to read any thriller/mystery that features a secret society and a mysterious game.

I love anything and everything P.D. James, and cannot wait to read this set of previously unpublished short stories.

Alex Marwood is a brilliant author. In this thriller, he writes about a mysterious unsolved crime from the past, and a group of suspects reunited over a tension-filled weekend.

Anything Megan Abbot writes, I'm essentially guaranteed to love. Throw in the world of professional gymnastics, and I'm sold.

I love the Jackaby series---I still need to read the second book, but plan to really soon, and can't wait for the third. Plus, the covers are gorgeous!

What books are you most looking forward to?

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Girls, Breach of Crust, and Printer's Row Book Fair!

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.

I read a lot of true crime, and I read a lot of true crime about cults, which has resulted in me reading a lot about the Manson Family. So when I heard there was a new fiction book based off Manson and his followers, I desperately wanted to read it.

The Girls does not disappoint. This is a book that deserves all the hype, and all the starred reviews.

In The Girls, Cline tells the story of Evie, a teenage girl coming of age in the 1960's. She is disillusioned with her family and her one friend, and instantly enamored when she meets Suzanne.

Suzanne tells Evie about Russell (clearly a stand-in for Manson) and the ranch, where a group of young people gather to spread love. Evie throws herself into their world, going dumpster diving for food, stealing money, and spending more and more time on the ranch.

But the readers know something terrible happened that summer. A grown up Evie has been telling us her story from the beginning, a story full of regrets and unanswered questions. And as she brings us closer to the violent conclusion of her youth, readers will not be able to stop themselves from going along on the journey.

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.

That I didn't love this book more is not this book's fault. It all comes down to personal preference. I like my mysteries to have a lot of mystery in them, and I don't typically tend to be drawn to books centered around magical beings (with definite exceptions). There just wasn't enough mystery in this book for me, particularly as the cover does bill it as a mystery book.

That I finished this book is absolutely a testament to Adams' writing. I quickly realized the mystery wasn't going to be the focus, but I found Adams' characters, setting, and writing style all so charming (series reference intended) that I had to keep reading. I especially enjoyed the multiple kick-butt female characters, and the lovely romance between the main protagonist and her firefighter boyfriend. Adams hooked me to the point that even though this wasn't really a mystery book (in my opinion), I may just be coming back for more.

The above is a picture of my book haul from this year's Printer's Row Book Fair (with a bonus photo bomb from my pup Sherlock)! Printer's Row is absolutely one of my favorite times of the year-tent after tent full of books for sale-and attending has been a family tradition for over 20 years.

This year I bought 44 books! I got a lot of great Agatha Christie editions and covers to add to my collection, a few books from my wishlist, and a lot of cozy mysteries (my mom and I stock up at the Fair every year and trade them with each other).

Is there a book fair you especially love? A book-related tradition you have?

Hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Five Friday Guest Post: Michelle's Five Favorite Middle Grade Books

This Five Friday Guest Post is by Michelle!

Just want to thank Becca for having me on her blog. I am excited to share with you all my 5 favorite Middle Grade books. It was really hard to pick 5 but I narrowed it down to a few of my favorites that I think would be a must read for anyone looking for books for either their middle grader or themselves. I originally started reading Middle Grade so I had recommendation to give my kids but I actually fell in love with the genre since it is as far from real life as you could possibly go and its just so much fun to read.

My Top Five Favorite Middle Grade Books…

1) Museum of Thieves (The Keepers Trilogy #1) by Lian Tanner

This was probably one of the first books I read when I really started reading again after Harry Potter. The entire series completely blew me away. It is so different and I loved the characters. This is one of those series that play in your head like a movie. One day I plan to read this over again because It will forever stick with me.

2) The Shadows (The Books of Elsewhere #1) by Jacqueline West
Olive is a fun character and the cats that live in the house are just lots of fun. I enjoyed this series and hope one day my daughter will enjoy it too. The story is really cute and so very interesting, I loved the idea of jumping into paintings. This is a must read for MG and even adults.

3) The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (The League of Princes #1) by Christopher Healy

Laugh out loud funny. This is a chance for the Princes of the stories to shine and did they shine. I can’t get over how amazing this books and the entire series is. I laughed so hard reading this book, it is so much fun. I recommend to adults and MG

4) Stitch Head (Stitch Head #1) by Guy Bass

The book is fun the illustrations are gorgeous. I love Stitch Head and his friends. This is a great book for kids and as an adult I enjoyed this so much.

5) The Pirate Who's Afraid of Everything by Annabeth Bondor-Stone

Shivers is scared of EVERYTHING and I love him so much. This is such a fun book. Kids and adults will enjoy the laugh out loud adventure of Shivers, his friends and goldfish.

I do have a lot more but these are just fun reads and with summer coming would be great to sit on the beach of by a pool and just read something fun.

Thank you again Becca for having me! 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

What We're Reading Wednesday: June 8, 2016

Well, the school year is over, and I am out for the summer! I love being a teacher, but it is definitely nice to have some time off. And of course, I definitely plan to fill a big chunk of that time reading and blogging.

So what am I reading these first few days off?

I'm in the last stretch of this book, and things are picking up. Even though there's been a second murder, there's still not a lot of mystery going on. However, the writing is still good enough to keep me reading, especially as I'm so close to the end.

These are my before-bed books. I've really been enjoying reading one of the short stories from Poirot Investigates and a few chapters of Nonna's Book of Mysteries before turning in for the night.

I'm so excited to have started this as my Kindle read! I was so happy to get an ARC of it and it is not disappointing one bit. The Girls is a fictionalized take on the Manson girls, the cult, and the murders, and is really well-written.

I love this cozy mystery series. Pattern of Betrayal is such a fun, light read. It's one of those genre mysteries that manages to stay cozy despite all the murder and mayhem occurring. The series takes place in a quilting-themed inn in a small town.

What are you reading this Wednesday?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Reasons I Love Mysteries

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

I love mysteries because...

1) The twists! I love thinking I know what is going on, and then having everything turned completely on its head.

2) The clues! It's so fun to try to piece the clues together.

3) The detectives! Alleyn! Holmes! Poirot! And I love a great detective duo, like the ever-classic Holmes and Watson.

4) The suspects! The maid! The butler! The country squire!

5) The re reads! I love when a mystery not only can stand up to a re read, but invites one. It's great to go back and see what you missed, and how it all fits together.

6) The settings! A locked room! The moor! A small country village! A mansion trapped by snow! A remote island! Victorian England!

7) The authors! Christie, Doyle, Marsh, James, the list goes on and on!

8) The denouncements! Oh, how I love all the suspects gathered in one room while the detective explains everything! The tension, the furtive looks, the confessions!

9) The genres within genres! Cozy mystery, locked room, village, police procedural, the list goes on and on!

10) The staying power! Mysteries show no signs of ever stopping, thank goodness! Classics are still classics, and new ones are being written all the time!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach

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.

This was another one of those books where I was so excited to get an ARC, I'm pretty sure I squealed out loud.

I should preface this by saying I love Mary Roach's books. My mother does too. In fact, Roach graduated from the same college I went to (though not the same year). My mother once showed up early enough for a talk she was giving that she got to sit next to Roach before everyone else got there, and just chat with her.

She said Roach was absolutely fascinating and funny, just like you would hope.

In Grunt, Roach again works her unique style of magic, this time centered around the science surrounding humans at war. She volunteers to participate in a heat stroke test, and to act as an injured party (complete with fake squirting blood) in an attack simulation. She visits the home of a man who studies the healing power of maggots, and stops in at a lab dedicated to the possibility of genitalia transplants, as well as one focused on preventing debilitating diarrhea.

 Through it all, Roach never loses her sense of humor, her deep curiosity, or her willingness to learn. Nothing will stop her from approaching an intimidating Special Ops officer at the lunch table to ask him about his bowel movements, all in the name of science of course.

Grunt is a look at the side of war that isn't typically written about, the scientific side, where developing shark repellent and the most disgusting smelling weapons could just be the key to winning it all.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Who Are They Really? Before the Fall and The Good Girl

The two books I'm reviewing today share a common theme. Both examine what happens when the face a person shows to the world is at odds with the truth they carry inside.

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.

This is a book about a plane crash, that ends the lives of nine people. A last-minute passenger and a four year old boy are the only survivors, while the boy's extremely wealthy family and their friends perish beneath the waves.

As the investigators attempt to determine what really happened, readers gain insight into all the parties involved. Each chapter provides another piece of the puzzle, a look into a character's life and soul. The mystery is what caused the plane to crash-was it an accident? Pilot error? A conspiracy to bring down the wealthy and influential?-but it is also the mystery of the human beings involved. 

I was so excited when I found this at a used book sale. There had been so much hype surrounding it, and it was supposed to be amazing.

At first, I wasn't so sure about the hype. 

With everything seemingly being hyped as the next Gone Girl, it takes a lot for a psychological thriller to stand out. It was a good book for sure, but it didn't seem particularly special. 

The story is that of a young woman and her kidnapper, who instead of turning her over to the people who paid him to take her, brings her to a secluded cabin in the woods. The use of before and after chapters was definitely highly effective in building tension, as was the use of alternating narrators. As readers learn from the different characters, it becomes apparent that all is not as it seems, and every character has a truth they're not yet sharing.

But that last chapter proved beyond a shadow of a doubt why this book has been so popular. That last chapter lived up to all the hype. It is a chapter that makes you gasp out loud, and makes you revisit and reexamine everything you just read and thought.

Kubica has definitely gained another fan. I will absolutely be picking up Pretty Baby.

Friday, June 3, 2016

You Vote On What I Read! Make Me Read Readathon

I'm so excited about this, it looks so fun!

It's running from July 9-July 16, and is hosted by The Innocent Smiley and Tea and Titles. How it works is that, in a poll below, I will list ten books off my TBR bookcases. You vote for which one(s) you want me to read during the Make Me Read It Readathon week, and I will read them in order of how many votes they got. So the book that gets the most votes I will read first, the book that gets the second most votes second, etc. I will be reading as many as I can during that week.

Please vote below! This should be so much fun!

What Should I Read for the Make Me Read Readathon

Spinisters in Jeopardy by Ngaio Marsh
The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Seance For a Vampire by Fred Saberhagen
Killer Instinct by Victoria Laurie
Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey
Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton
On Detective Fiction by P.D. James
The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen
Survey Maker

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

What We're Reading Wednesday: June 1, 2016

What I'm Reading:

These are my before bed books. I'm about a third of the way through Nonna's Book of Mysteries, and definitely enjoying it. I just started my re read of Poirot Investigates (it's the June Agatha Christie read for Maidens of Murder Bookstagram Book Club), and read the first short story.

I haven't gotten a lot of this read on my phone recently. Life's been really busy, so when I'm walking my dog I'm unfortunately having to check other things on my phone like it's been raining a lot, which has meant one hand for my dog's leash and one hand for the umbrella.

This is my hard copy read. I'm almost halfway through, and completely hooked. The Before and After setup definitely creates a lot of tension, as do the different narrators.

I just started this ARC yesterday on my Kindle, and am flying through it. If work didn't have me so busy and so absolutely exhausted (I'm a Pre-K teacher, and its the last week of the school year for the kids, which has meant a ton of events, cleaning the classroom, and helping my students process things emotionally), I would be done with this already, it's that good a read.

What are you reading this Wednesday?

Also, on a related note, if you live in the Chicagoland area, my parents' house is going to be part of a 66 house Northcenter Neighborhood yard sale this Saturday, June 4, from 9-3. I will be there selling a ton of books. If you'd like the exact address where I will be, just let me know! :)