Wednesday, August 31, 2016

What We're Reading Wednesday: August 31, 2016

It's been a bit of a stressful week, especially yesterday. I haven't been feeling well, and then my poor little pup sprained his right front paw. I brought him to the vet yesterday, and they prescribed a painkiller and lots of rest, which is very hard to enforce on an active little guy, but we're hanging in there. Today was better than yesterday, that's for sure.

Work is going well. My students this year are (knock on wood) really great, and the school year is starting off nicely.

So here's what I'm reading:

These are my two e-reads. Surrender, New York is taking me a lot longer than I had expected. It's a long book for sure, but the issue is that the story isn't grabbing me like I had hoped. I loved Carr's The Alienist and The Italian Secretary, but his new book isn't living up to the high standards he set with his previous works. It's not a bad book by any means, but it's just not great either.

I just started Death on Windmill Way, and so far it's a fun cozy mystery with a great setting. I'm excited to see where this one goes.

I'm trying to read all my library books before they're due back, and this was the next one up! It's pretty good so far, and is reading a bit like an updated version of Killing Mr. Griffin.

These are the three books on my nightstand, and I'm rotating them as before bed reading. I like to have the option of non-fiction or fiction depending on what I'm in the mood for that night.

What are you reading? Anything you'd recommend?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Read in School and Loved

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

This week is a Back to School Freebie, so I decided to go with Ten Books I Read in School and Loved!




Monday, August 29, 2016

Review: Pumpkin Picking with Murder

Title: Pumpkin Picking with Murder
Author: Auralee Wallace
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Recommended If You Like: Janet Evanovich, funny cozy mysteries, kick butt female protagonists, romance, unique characters and settings

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.

The Book:

Erica Bloom is back in Otter Lake for the Fall Festival--and for a shot at romance with her childhood crush. But when a boat emerges from the Tunnel of Love with a dead body inside, and a member of Erica's family becomes the prime suspect, Erica will have to team up with her best friend Freddie once again to solve the case.

What I Liked:

I love the characters and setting in this series. Wallace is so good at creating unique, real characters, and her Otter Lake is extremely vivid and different from any other small town mystery setting I've ever read.

This is a funny mystery series too! It reminds me in a lot of ways of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series--really hilarious, a great romance you can't help but root for, and an excellent mystery as well.

Anything I Didn't Like?

Honestly, no. If I had to pick something, I would say the book didn't need the addition of a love triangle, but that didn't really detract from the story at all.


The Otter Lake series is absolutely one of my favorite cozy mystery series. It's funny, charming, clever, and unique, and I highly recommend it.

ARC August Tally:

1) The Assassin Game by Kirsty McKay
2) I'm Judging You by Luvvie Ayaji
3) Murder in the Secret Garden by Ellery Adams
4) The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne
5) American Heiress by Jeffrey Toobin
6) Ghostly Echoes by William Ritter
7) Pumpkin Picking with Murder by Auralee Wallace

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Tackle Your TBR Read-a-Thon and a Mystery Mini Review

I have so many TBRs, so I definitely need this challenge! I'm hoping to read a bunch of books from my TBR bookshelves and my Kindle.

It should be a lot of fun, so if you'd like to sign-up as well, you can find the sign-up post here: Tackle Your TBR Read-a-Thon Sign-Up!

Mystery Mini Review: A Mind to Murder by P.D. James

I love P.D. James. While Agatha Christie will always be my favorite mystery writer, P.D. James is definitely up there. She is an expert at using vivid settings and complex characters to create her mystery stories.

In A Mind to Murder, James chooses a psychiatric clinic to set her murder and mayhem in. There are plenty of suspects, plenty of motives, and lots of red herrings. The ending is especially amazing--I don't want to give anything away, but trust me, James is masterful with the plot twists.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Review: Lock&Mori

Title: Lock & Mori
Author: Heather W. Petty
Publication Date: September 15, 2015
Genre: Young Adult Mystery
Recommended If You Like: Sherlock Holmes with a twist, mysteries, books set in England, young adult series, strong female narrators

The Book:

Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty are in a modern-day high school--and Moriarty, called "Mori", is a teenage girl.

Lock and Mori meet one day during a fire drill, and begin to bond over their above-average intelligence and keen interest in solving the mysteries of the world around them. Lock proposes a challenge--to solve the series of murders in Regent Park--and the winner is the one who reaches the correct solution first.

The catch? They must share all gathered information with each other. But Mori isn't used to trusting anyone, not even the boy finding his way into her heart. And the case promises to lead them down a twisted path that could shatter everything they think they know, including their trust in each other.

What I Liked:

I've read a lot of Sherlock Holmes stories, both canon and otherwise, and this is a take on Holmes and Moriarty that feels completely fresh and new to me.

The mystery is a great one, full of some really shocking twists. It's a mystery that feels worthy of the combined brain power of Lock and Mori, which is saying a lot. Lock and Mori are two strong, complex, academically brillant but emotionally stunted characters who grow throughout the story in ways that feel painfully real.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I love John Watson, and he played only a very minor role in this. More Watson please!


This is an excellent, creative addition to the multitude of non-canon Sherlock Holmes' reads. I'm so glad I have an ARC of the next in the series, and can't wait to start it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday and a Mini Review of Wink Poppy Midnight (featuring Bout of Books Update #1)

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

This week's topic is Ten Books That Have Been On Your Shelf (Or TBR) From Before You Started Blogging That You STILL Haven't Read Yet.

So I was an English major in college, which meant I was lucky enough to get to read a lot of classics (both older and modern) and get credit for it. That said, there are still quite a few classics that have been on my TBR for years that I still haven't read--I absolutely mean to get to these someday soon! (as I've been saying for quite a while now ;D)

Have you read any of these? Which one would you recommend the most?

Mini Review: Wink Poppy Midnight

This was my first finished read for the current round of Bout of Books. I'm currently about halfway through my second book, Lock & Mori.

So I finished Wink Poppy Midnight last night, and I'm still not sure how I feel about it. I know I didn't love it, but I think I sort of liked it? I definitely didn't hate it, but I also almost didn't finish it.

I think my main issue was with the characters. I just had the hardest time connecting to, or even really liking, any of them.

I did really like the twist--I really enjoy a book that turns everything I thought I knew on its head. But I just felt like the resolution was too pat for what purported to be such a complex book.

I really liked Tucholke's writing style at times, but at other times throughout the book it would feel like she was trying too hard. I liked the idea of a fairy tale theme, but the story would feel like it was being constricted and the language used solely to fit that theme, not to truly advance the story in a way that made sense.

So how do I feel about Wink Poppy Midnight after writing this review? It feels like it's a book that leaves me shrugging my shoulders and thinking "meh". It's not bad, but it's not great. It had a lot of potential it just didn't meet, at least in my opinion.

Have you read Wink Poppy Midnight? I'm really curious to know what other people thought about it.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Review: Ghostly Echoes

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

Title: Ghostly Echoes (Book 3 in the Jackaby series)
Author: William Ritter
Publication Date: August 23, 2016
Genre: Young Adult/Paranormal/Supernatural/Mystery
Recommended If You Like: the previous two books in the Jackaby series, a supernatural/paranormal take on a Holmes and Watson-like partnership, strong female protagonists/narrators/characters

The Book:

The third book in the Jackaby series focuses on the mystery of Jenny Cavanaugh, the resident ghost of the home Jackaby and Abigail Rook live in. Jenny is their friend, who is haunted herself by what happened to her and her fiance a decade ago. Jackaby and Abigail take it upon themselves to help her solve her own murder.

But along the way, they start to realize that this conspiracy spreads far wider than they had ever anticipated.

What I Liked:

I love the characters in this series, particularly Jackaby, Abigail, and Jenny. They are strong, complex individuals with their own strengths and issues, who compliment and confound each other in perfect measure. Jackaby and Abigail share a true partnership, with each bringing to the table what the other lacks. Their friendship and partnership grows naturally and feels true and real.

I also love the romance between Charlie and Abigail. Ritter really is an expert at creating relationships that read real, and that seem to grow organically.

The world Ritter has created is amazing. It is full of futuristic science, Seelie, and bridge trolls, auras and werewolves.

Anything I Didn't Like?

It's honestly hard for me to find anything I don't enjoy about this series. In this third entry, there was a bit less mystery than I would have liked, but that is definitely personal preference--I always want there to be more mystery in every book I read.


I highly recommend this book, and this series. It's the kind of series where after I read an ARC, or borrow one of the books from the library, I add a hard copy of my own to my wishlist. It's the kind of series where I want to have personal copies of my own on my bookshelf.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Review: The Unraveling of Mercy Louis

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

Title: The Unraveling of Mercy Louis
Author: Keija Parssinen
Publication Date: March 10, 2015
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Recommended If You Like: strong, complex female protagonists; the study of varying relationships between women (mother/daughter, grandmother/granddaughter, friends); coming of age stories; towns with secrets; an examination of the role of religion in a small town; psychology; basketball; stories playing off the idea of the Salem witch hunts

The Book:

Mercy Louis is a star basketball player on her high school team. She lives with her evangelical, vision-having grandmother, who has taken care of her since her mother left when she was a baby. Mercy has always followed her grandmother's rules, working hard to keep herself pure in body and mind. She has always followed her coach's rules, eating from the meal plan, focusing completely on basketball.

Illa is the manager of her high school girl's basketball team. Those moments with them are the highlight of her day. When she is not at school, she is her mother's caretaker, her mother having been severely injured by an explosion at the refinery many years ago.

But one summer, Mercy and Illa's worlds starts to change. And as girls start to be felled by a mysterious illness. Mercy, Illa, and their town, are forced to make difficult decisions and face their pasts.

What I Liked:

Mercy is a powerful, complex character. And none of the characters that surround her, especially the women, are one-dimensional or simple in any way.

There are also many mysteries in this novel, from what has caused the mysterious illness, to the truth behind Mercy's mother leaving, to what exactly happened in the refinery the day it exploded.

Parssinen also has a beautiful writing style, that flows really well. She's very adept at making you feel like you are inside her characters' heads.

I've also always been fascinated by the Salem Witch Trials, which this book plays off of in a wonderfully subtle way.

Anything I Didn't Like?

The ending felt a little too pat. Everything got resolved in a way that I'm not entirely convinced would hold true in real life. And one thing didn't get resolved that I really wanted to know the answer to.

The book also occasionally dragged a little, and took me longer to read than I had expected. It's hard to put my finger on exactly why this held true, but I suspect that it was because Parssinen sometimes uses her beautiful writing style a little too much--scenes and moments occasionally took longer than I felt like they should.


It was really refreshing to read about complex, complicated, three-dimensional female characters. While males, and their relationships with them, were an important component of the story, it was the women who really shined.

ARC August

1) The Assassin Game by Kirsty McKay
2) I'm Judging You by Luvvie Ayaji
3) Murder in the Secret Garden by Ellery Adams
4) The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne
5) American Heiress by Jeffrey Toobin
6) The Unraveling of Mercy Louis by Keija Parrssinen

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Review: American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes, and Trial of Patty Hearst

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

Title: American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes, and Trial of Patty Hearst
Author: Jeffrey Toobin
Publication Date: August 2, 2016
Genre: Non Fiction/True Crime
Recommended If You Like: The People V.S. O.J. Simpson, non fiction, true crime, history, previously undiscovered materials and information

The Book:

Say the name Patty Hearst, and chances are people will have heard that name before. But how much do we really know about her and her story? In American Heiress, Toobin uses his access to unprecedented amounts of material to tell the tale of Patty Hearst , a member of the rich and powerful Hearst family. Her kidnapping by a fringe band of renegades led to her joining their group and fully participating in their meant-to-be revolutionary actions. But was it her choice, or a form of brainwashing?

What I Liked:

This was a fascinating non-fiction read. I've always been interested in Patty Hearst, especially the psychological underpinnings of the never truly answered question of her compliance, but didn't really know that much besides the basic details mentioned in every article about her. Toobin, however, clearly knows a lot, and highlights this in a well-written and excellently-researched tome, that really captures the complexities of the multitude of issues raised.

Anything I Didn't Like?

Honestly, not really. If anything, I would say that the writing isn't as excellent and gripping as say, Devil in the White City, but that is a very high standard for any book to meet.


I would definitely recommend this book.

Toobin not only tells Hearst's tale, but that of each individual in the group that kidnapped her, those they came into contact with, her famous family, and every one involved in her legal battles.  Toobin certainly comes to his own conclusions regarding Hearst, but he also provides you with the facts to make your own decision.This is a well-rounded, well-researched, well-written encapsulation of a moment in time that reverberated throughout the decades.

ARC August Tally:

1) The Assassin Game by Kirsty McKay
2) I'm Judging You by Luvvie Ayaji
3) Murder in the Secret Garden by Ellery Adams
4) The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne
5) American Heiress by Jeffrey Toobin

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What We're Reading Wednesday: August 17, 2016

Well, the school year is starting up again soon, which means I'm back at work--and very tired ;D My classroom is almost all set up, and today and tomorrow are full days of meetings. Students start Tuesday, which is the part I'm really looking forward to, as I love being a teacher!

So what am I reading when I'm not working and sleeping?

This Kindle read is absolutely fascinating, and I'm learning so much I didn't know about Patty Hearst, the SLA, and that period in modern history. Toobin is really excellent at capturing all the complexities of this true story.

I'm almost done with the first book in my friend's series, and really want to know who the killer is! She just published the fourth book in the series, so I'm looking forward to spending lots more time with these characters. (I don't review my friends' books, as I will fully acknowledge I'm very biased!)

I'm reading this for ARC August, and almost done with it. It's really well-written, and heartbreaking, and mysterious.

This book is gorgeous, and complex, and beautifully written. I'm really enjoying spending time with the characters and setting while winding down before bed.

I added this to my before bed reading routine as I've been having some trouble sleeping (even with being so tired), and non fiction like this tends to help relax me (as long as I'm not reading true crime before bed, which I used to do, but have stopped). I'm only one chapter in, and it's a really interesting and unique read of events and people centered around the periodic table of elements.

This is another true crime case I am fascinated by (I tend to be really interested in unsolved mysteries and their possible solutions). I've been wanting to read this one since I first heard about it, and luckily I just managed to get to the library before they sent back my requested copy. 

What are you reading this week? Anything you'd recommend?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books Set in Isolated Locations

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

This week's topic is top ten books with X setting, and I chose isolated locations. Give me a mystery or thriller set in some sort of isolated location, like an island cut off from the mainland by storms, or a snowed-in country home. These are books guaranteed to be spooky and suspenseful, containing secrets, lies, and tension that will absolutely keep you flipping pages.

1) Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane, on a remote island battered by storms--

2) mysterious island that can only be reached by boat-and there's a storm coming--

3) country house snowed in by a blizzard--

4) snowed in guest house--

5) gothic mansion in the middle of nowhere--

6) Baskerville Hall, on the lonely moors--

7) a luxury cruise ship out on the dark, cold waters--

8) a cabin in the woods--

9) an almost-empty hotel that doesn't want to let you go--

10) snowed in English village--