Saturday, April 22, 2017

Review: The Road to Jonestown



Title: The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple
Author: Jeff Guinn
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Genre: Non-Fiction
Recommended If You Like: Guinn's previous book on Charles Manson, the story behind a famous person and event, well-researched reads

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:

Guinn tells the true tale of the man and the people behind the infamous events surrounding Peoples Temple.

What I Liked:

This is not a book that simply repeats what everyone already knows about Jim Jones and Peoples Temple. Guinn has done his research, and done it well. He draws from a wide variety of sources, including direct interviews. He shows all sides, and all aspects of the story.

Anything I Didn't Like?

There really wasn't anything I didn't like about this book. It is a non-fiction book that reads like a novel, with Guinn being able to back up every word,

So...?

I would highly recommend this book, whether you've read anything about Jim Jones and Peoples Temple before or not. As he did in his previous work, Manson, Guinn provides a well-researched read on what made an infamous cult leader, and the events that spun from this leader's reign.



Thursday, April 13, 2017

Unreliable Narrator Reviews: You, and The Dinner



Both You and The Dinner are unique takes on the unreliable narrator tale that has become so popular.

The narrator of You, Joe, is stalking a woman he met at the bookstore he works at, but he sees it as devotion and love. As he reads her e-mails, arranges seemingly change meetings, and decides who in her life is unworthy of being near her, he sees his actions as honorable and completely justified.

The narrator of The Dinner admits from the first page that he is holding back facts. He doesn't even want to name the restaurant they are eating at for fear it will make people want to go there. This forces the reader to question just what else he is holding back when it comes to a secret that could split his family apart.

Both these books have a slow-burning, tension-filled buildup that continues to increase the suspense. Not knowing just how much you can trust the person telling you a story makes you read between the lines in every line. Both Kepnes and Koch have a writing style that draws you in despite not being sure you even like the characters you are listening to (another choice I definitely think the authors made on purpose), and get at the heart at what constitutes love, trust, and the truth.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Blog Tour: Gone Without a Trace


Official Release:


How far would you go to find the one that got away?

From the imprint that published Fiona Barton’s instant New York Times bestseller The Widow and Clare Mackintosh’s global phenomenon I Let You Go, comes Mary Torjussen’s GONE WITHOUT A TRACE (Berkley Trade Paperback Original; 978-0-399-58501-2; April 18, 2017; $16.00)—an electric, compulsive thriller about a boyfriend’s unexplained disappearance, and its corrosive effects on the woman he left behind.

In GONE WITHOUT A TRACE, young professional Hannah returns from work to find her live-in boyfriend, Matt, is gone. His belongings have disappeared from their house. Every call she ever made, every text she ever sent, every photo of him and any sign of him on social media have vanished. It’s as though their last four years together never happened. As she struggles to get through the next few days, with humiliation and recriminations whirring through her head, she knows she’ll do anything to get answers. Where has he gone? Why has he left?

Then the messages start—cryptic and creepy texts and videos—and Hannah realizes that someone is watching her every move. And there are signs that someone has been in her house.
As her search for Matt progresses, Hannah treads further into madness and obsession—and the only way out is to come to terms with the one shocking truth she just can’t accept. . .

For anyone who has ever asked “Was it something I did?” GONE WITHOUT A TRACE brings to chilling light the doubt, fear, and obsession that can lie dormant in our most intimate relationships.

Shari LapenaNew York Times bestselling author of The Couple Next Door, says: “Gone Without a Trace has one of the most interesting narrators I’ve ever come across.”


My Review:

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.

My absolute favorite thing about this book was how suspenseful it was. I could not put it down,and found myself squeezing in chapters throughout the day whenever I could. What was perhaps most impressive was that for the first two thirds of the book, there were no big reveals (except for the main one revealed in the book description), but small mysterious occurrences, and yet the suspense not only held, but grew. The little reveals made everything eerier and even more of a mystery.

The concept is really unique, and had me having to know the solution. I could not figure out how Torjussen could possibly bring everything together in a way that made sense. This was a case of really surprising reveals (every time I thought I knew what was going to happen, I was completely wrong), but ones that did seem a bit out of the blue. There were so many completely surprising twists one right after the other in the last few chapters, that they seemed somewhat disjointed from what I had read before. The few flashbacks definitely made things clearer,

This was a gripping read, and while I would have liked a little more foreshadowing, the twists were a big surprise, the kind that made me question everything I'd read before. This is a unique take on the psychological thriller, and the mystery did not disappoint.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Review: City of Light, City of Poison


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: City of Light, City of Poison: Murder, Magic, and the First Police Chief of Paris
Author: Holly Tucker
Publication Date: March 21, 2017
Genre: True Crime/History/Non-Fiction
Recommended If You Like: French history, true crime, stories that haven't been told before, well-researched reads

The Book:

Tucker tells the true tale of a rash of poisoning during the reign of Louis XIV, when murder, witch hunts, and the nobility collided under a web of fear and conspiracy. This led to the appointment of the first police chief in Paris.

What I Liked:

This is a true story that few people know about. Tucker has definitely done her research, and explains just how these documents even became available to examine.

This is a fascinating tale of a police system trying to figure out its role, an attempt to clean up Paris's streets, and a Sisyphean task of trying to unravel a web of conspiracy that could involve the king's own mistresses.

Anything I Didn't Like?

The book did start out a little slowly, and felt like it ended a little abruptly.

So...?

This is a well-done book that provides well-researched and well-written information on a little-known true crime tale. I would definitely recommend this for people who read true crime and/or French history.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Fandoms of Mine


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

This week is a fandom freebie! I love so many different shows, books, and movies, it's so hard for me to narrow it down to any kind of favorites list. So I decided to just go with some of the first fandoms I love that popped into my head ;)

1) Lost

Lost just might the fandom I got the most involved in. I debated theories, wrote fanfiction, and made fan videos and icons. I am still friends with the people I met through a Lost message board. And to this day, thinking about Lost just gives me all the feels.

2) Sherlock Holmes

It's no secret I love all things Sherlock Holmes. My dog is named Sherlock, and my apartment is full of Sherlock Funko Pops, pins, books, action figures, and art.I love the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce adaptations, Elementary, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, and the current BBC version. Now that I'm getting my family and friends hooked on the Cumberbatch/Freeman and Miller/Liu takes, it's been so fun to talk about the episodes with them.

3) Hamilton

I cannot say enough about my love for this musical, especially after having been lucky enough to see it live. I listen to the soundtrack constantly, and have watched anything aired on TV about Hamilton countless times. I'm also reading everything I can get my hands on Hamilton related.

4) Reality Television Competition Shows

I cannot get enough of these. I watch everything from The Great British Baking Show (a show that relaxes me when my anxiety spikes) to Project Runway (I had my mom bring me back a Thank You Mood shirt from Mood in New York) to Face Off, and everything in between. Besides these just being super fun to watch, they are also something I share with my family. My brother and I still talk about who would do what Roadblocks on The Amazing Race if we ever competed together, when we're not watching American Ninja Warrior with baited breath. And my mom and I watch and discuss all the baking and cooking shows, especially when I'm over to visit.

5) Psych

This show really had it all for me-twisty mysteries, great characters, and hilarious comedy. It's one of those shows where I will watch it anytime I happen to catch a rerun (and I am currently in the process of getting every season on DVD), no matter what episode. I could watch the episodes again and again, and never get sick of them. 

6) Veronica Mars

This show was so many different kinds of brilliant. The mysteries, especially in the first season, were so well-crafted. and Veronica was such a strong and inspirational female protagonist. I definitely donated to the Kickstarter campaign to get the movie made.

7) Mystery Science Theater 3000

This is a show that always makes me burst out laughing, no matter how many times I've seen an episode. It also has this wonderful nostalgia for me, because I originally watched the episodes with one of my best friends, and with my family. I cannot wait for the new episodes on Netflix.

8) Agatha Christie

This is my favorite author ever, and I have been so excited by all the modern movie and miniseries adaptations coming out. I've gushed about my love for her work on this blog a lot, and I still don't feel I can say enough about how good she is. I have an entire bookcase in my apartment that is dedicated to just Agatha Christie.

9) Chicago Bulls

I just love my hometown team so much! I go to games with my parents and my friends, and watch the games on TV (when my less-than-optimal cable package allows me to). I'm still starstruck over the time I got to meet Scottie Pippen and Jimmy Butler. Being at the United Center watching my Bulls play gives me such a happy rush.

10) Brooklyn 99

This is one of the funniest shows I have ever seen. It's another one I could watch over and over, and the episodes would never get old. The characters are so great, and the show is so quotable, and has amazing physical gags and running jokes. Trial and Error is quickly becoming a show like this for me as well.

I also have to give a shout out to Alias, which I loved so much when it aired I would shush anyone around me who dared to make a sound when it was on (back before I could watch anything I had missed online the next day). Also Criminal Minds, which continues to be captivating even so many seasons in. 


There are definitely more, and I know I'm still forgetting some, but if I let myself keep going, I'll have ten fandom blog posts!

What are some of your favorite fandoms?




Saturday, April 1, 2017

Review: This House is Haunted




Title: This House is Haunted
Author: John Boyne
Publication Date: October 8, 2013
Genre: Gothic Horror/Psychological/Ghost Story
Recommended If You Like: Dickens-esque prose, ghost stories, strong female protagonists, The Turn of the Screw 

The Book: 

Eliza Caine has just lost her father, and mired in grief, answers an advertisement for a governess. But even before her arrival, strange and dangerous things begin to happen to her, occurrences that only get worse once she makes it to Gaudlin Hall.

What I Liked:

This is a well-written scary story. The eeriness builds subtly at first, then crescendos. I love a good, gothic ghost story, especially one that reminds me of The Turn of the Screw, and this book checks all those boxes.

Eliza Caine is also a very strong female character who you can't help but root for. She makes for a compelling, complex narrator.

Anything I Didn't Like?

The story started out slow, and took a while to get going. I know this was to build suspense, but the story didn't really get very interesting until Eliza arrived at Gaudlin Hall.

So...?

If you like gothic horror and ghost stories, this is a book I would recommend. It's not one I imagine I will be re reading, but I did enjoy reading it.




Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Reviews:What Remains of Me, and The Readaholics and the Poirot Puzzle



This is one of my favorite reads of the year so far.

In What Remains of Me, Gaylin spins an amazingly tangled tale about a murder from the past and a murder from the present colliding, sending secrets spiraling out from the wreckage.

Hollywood is a place of secrets and lies, and Kelly Lund is caught up in the middle of it all. When she was a teenager, she was convicted of murdering a famous movie director. Now out of prison, her father-in-law is found dead under similar circumstances, and Kelly finds herself a suspect once again. 

Gaylin is a brilliant writer. What I have to mention first and foremost is how expertly she delivers her twists. I spent the last third of the book literally gasping out loud, unable to stop turning pages because I had to know what would happen next. Just when I would think I had things figured out, Gaylin would completely surprise me once again.

I also really loved the technique of weaving flashbacks from the time of the original murder with scenes from the present day. This did a lot for character development, as well as setting up future plot points and creating a lot of suspense.

Essentially, I can't say enough about how much I loved this book. It's absolutely one of the ones I'm going to go to when people ask for a recommended read that they haven't heard of yet.


I will read absolutely anything having to do with Agatha Christie, especially when it's an entry in a cozy mystery series that I already know I enjoy. 

When her brother's business partner is murdered during the opening night festivities at their new bar, Amy-Faye takes it upon herself to solve the mystery and clear her brother as a suspect. But along the way, she discovers that almost everyone in her small town has a secret to hide, and some have a possible motive for murder.

DiSilverio does a really nice job of weaving in the themes of Murder on the Orient Express along with some discussion of plot points (though be warned, if you haven't read the source material, the ending will be spoiled for you in this book--and if you haven't read the source material, go and read it now, it's one of my all-time favorite books!).

The characters are unique and entertaining without becoming stereotypes, and Amy-Faye is a strong narrator and protagonist, with a great supporting cast. The romance is also well-handled with a light touch, an important part of the story without overpowering the mystery.

This is definitely a cozy series I would recommend. DiSilverio has made a fun mystery series centered around famous mysteries, and I'm excited to read the other Readaholics' stories.





Monday, March 27, 2017

Review: The Mystery of Hollow Places



Title: The Mystery of Hollow Places
Author: Rebecca Podos
Publication Date: January 26, 2016
Genre: Young Adult/Mystery/Suspense/Psychological
Recommended If You Like: strong female characters, complex families, mysteries with psychological underpinnings

The Book:

Imogene's parents met when her father, a forensic pathologist, brought her mother in to identify a body. Her father became a famous mystery writer, and her mother left them behind. Now Imogene's father is the one who has left, and she decides she must use all she has learned from his books to find him and solve the mystery of her mother.

What I Liked: 

Podos has a beautiful writing style that really flows, and lends an almost surreal quality at times to what is definitely a strong mystery. I wanted to know what happened to Imogene's parents, why they left, where they were, and what Imogene would find.

Imogene is a very strong character, that you can't help but root for. Podos made me feel invested in the choices Imogene made, and what would happen to her.

Anything I Didn't Like?

There really wasn't anything I didn't like. This was a strong entry in the young adult mystery genre.

So...?

I would definitely recommend this book. It's a well-written, compelling young adult mystery that will have you invested.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Review: Ill Will



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: Ill Will
Author: Dan Chaon
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Psychological/Thriller
Recommended If You Like: experimental writing styles, multiple perspectives, crimes from the past colliding with crimes from the present, psychology

The Book:

Told from multiple perspectives, this is the story of a crime from the past that occurred during the Satanic Panic, as well as crimes occurring in the present that may be committed by a serial killer known by the moniker "Jack Daniels".

What I Liked:

Chaon does a really great job of exploring what exactly truth means for each character. Is it okay to lie on the witness stand if you still really think the accused did it? How do we lie to ourselves? To our friends and family? Do we rewrite our own pasts to make us feel more comfortable with our choices?

The mysteries are definitely intriguing and kept me interested. And the twist to the present mystery caught me completely by surprise, which I absolutely loved.

Anything I Didn't Like?

Sometimes it seems like Chaon gets too experimental, almost as if he is doing experimental for experimental's sake. Some pages have three different perspectives running in three different columns all on the same page, which was used too frequently and got confusing towards the end, taking me out of the book. There are also sentences that just end, with words missing. I'm not sure if these are typos or if this is what Chaon intended, but there are a lot of them and it is distracting.

So...?

While I like my mysteries completely resolved, I still enjoyed this book, It's definitely different and interesting, and the mysteries will keep you guessing and keep you invested.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Review: Murder in Plain English



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: Murder in Plain English: From Manifestos to Memes-Looking at Murder Through the Words of Killers
Authors: Michael Arntfield and Marcel Danesi
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
Genre: Non-Fiction/True Crime
Recommended If You Like: true crime, literary analysis, critical thinking

The Book:

Arntfield and Danesi look at true crime and the culture surrounding it through the lens of literary analysis.

What I Liked:

As a former English major (in college), and someone who reads a lot of true crime, this book seemed tailor made for me, and it did not disappoint. This is a unique, well-researched take on a subject that has already had a lot written about it.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I did feel the book occasionally got off track and meandered a bit, but this happened pretty infrequently.

So...?

I would definitely recommend this book for anyone interested in true crime, and/or literary analysis, and who is looking for a fresh take on the subject.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Review: This Is Our Story




In This Is Our Story, Elston spins a tangled, eerie web of a story about secrets, lies, and the ties that bind us.

Everyone has heard about the River Point Boys. The five friends went into the woods to hunt, and when the hunt was finished, one of their own lay dead.

Kate is a high school student who works in the district attorney's office. She's already emotionally involved in this case for reasons she doesn't want to discuss with anyone, let alone her mother and her boss. Determined to get to the bottom of what truly happened, Kate starts digging deep, with possibly dangerous results.

I had been wanting to read this book since I first heard about it, and Elston did not disappoint. The book is nicely layered, with twists and turns I did not see coming. The characters are complex, and Kate is a character I definitely found myself cheering for. Elston's use of interview transcripts, and missives from a mysterious second narrator, make the story even more interesting.

This is a young adult mystery done right. I definitely recommend this read.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

What We're Reading Wednesday: March 15, 2017, and Some Mini-Reviews!



My school is doing a reading competition this month, and teachers' minutes count this year! So here's what I'm reading this Wednesday!


I've been wanting to read this book since I first heard about it, and it is living up to everything I hoped it would be! It's such a good, eerie young adult psychological mystery.


I'm starting this one tonight as my before-bed book. It's another one I've been wanting to read for quite a while, and I got my hands on a great hardcover copy at a used book sale.



I love P.D. James, and this is the first in her series featuring a female detective.



These are my current Kindle reads. The first seemed so completely up my alley I had to read it. And the second is actually the first in a cozy mystery series I started reviewing last week.

What are you reading?


                                                                   ************



I've had this book on my shelf for a while-it's an early reviewer book that didn't actually come in the mail until many months after it was supposed to-and my school's reading competition has bonus points for reading a book about basketball, so I was inspired to pick this up finally and get some extra points for my classroom!

Price tells the story of his year spent attempting to train his body and mind to be able to dunk a basketball. Along the way, he reveals personal stories about his and his family's life, as well as delving into the history of basketball, and jumping in general. 

As a huge basketball fan, I found this book most interesting when it focused on the basketball aspect of things, but in general, this was a good, quick read, with some real impactful emotional moments.




I knew I had to have this book the moment I heard about it, and reading it definitely lived up to my expectations. 

Ricca tells the true tale of a woman detective who took on the case of a missing girl, and ended up taking on her city as well. Ricca also explores the all-important question of how such an important, influential woman could be so little-known nowadays.

This book is fascinating from a true crime viewpoint, but also in the ways it explores the societal and cultural norms of the time. I highly recommend this read.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Review: Crepe Factor



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: Crepe Factor
Author: Laura Childs
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Recommended If You Like: cozy mysteries, settings as characters, mysteries that make your mouth water

The Book:

It's the holiday season, but scrapbook shop owner Carmela has just seen a man die at her feet. The victim has ties to both the restaurant scene and the local environmentalists, and Carmela's ex is a prime suspect.

What I Liked:

I loved how Childs made the setting of New Orleans absolutely come alive. It made me want to visit there right away, and eat eat eat!

The characters are also very vivid, and Childs does an excellent job of making each character unique and memorable.

Anything I Didn't Like?

The title didn't really make sense. Crepes don't come into the book at all to my memory.

The solution to the mystery seemed a bit out of nowhere, but Childs did still make it work.

So...?

I've enjoyed the other books of Childs' I've read more. This one was enjoyable, but merely okay.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Review: The Whole Art of Detection



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 Whole Art of Detection
Author: Lyndsay Faye
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
Genre: Mystery
Recommended If You Like: all things Sherlock Holmes

The Book:

Faye has crafted a collection of short stories centered around Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. These stories cover the early years of Holmes' career, through his supposed death and return, all the way through to years after he has resumed his life in London.

What I Liked:

Everything! The mysteries are fantastic and varied, and read just like the original canon stories do. Faye truly has a gift for capturing Doyle's spirit and voice within her takes on the tales.

I especially loved the more personal glimpses we get into Holmes' and Watson's hearts and heads. Holmes' return from the dead, and its emotional effects, is really examined here, in a beautiful way that is true to the original characters.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I absolutely loved this collection. I want to run out and own it right now so I can put it on my Sherlock Holmes' shelves. There was nothing I didn't like.

So...?

I highly recommend this book for any and all Holmes' fans.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Review: Bradstreet Gate



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

Title: Bradstreet Gate
Author: Robin Kirman
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Genre: Mystery/Psychological/Suspense
Recommended If You Like: college settings, ambiguity, complex characters, philosophical ponderings wrapped in a murder mystery

The Book:

Three people enter Harvard as undergraduates, thinking this is the key to making their lives perfect. But an overly charming professor and a murder on campus shake their worlds to the core. As they graduate and grow into adults, the events from those four years continue to reverberate through every facet of their lives.

What I Liked:

I really liked Part 1, and the first half of Part 2. The mystery is highly intriguing, the characters are complex and interesting, and the writing style is excellent. Starting in modern day and flashing back to the events from the past creates a real sense of suspense that made me have to keep reading.

Anything I Didn't Like?

From the second half of Part 2, through the end of the book, I just didn't love it. The mystery I was promised gets lost in the characters' ponderings, and the story really seems to just sort of meander along.

 I'm someone who always wants a mystery resolved, and not having any resolution to this mystery really left me unsatisfied. Reading an essay by the author located in the back of the book, it does seem this was exactly the intention, but it's not an intention I really enjoyed.

So...?

To me, this definitely isn't the next The Secret History (one of my all-time favorite books), as some of the blurbs tout it as. This is not a bad book by any means, but the potential of the beginning of the book just seems to peter out about halfway through, and the non-solution left me unsatisfied.

I think Kirman was just trying to do too much. Honestly, if the murder hadn't been included at all, I think the book would have been a tighter read. The author's purpose could definitely have been achieved using the other relationships, dramas, and revelations within the pages.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Review: Never Missing, Never Found




Title: Never Missing, Never Found
Author: Amanda Panitch
Publication Date: June 28, 2016
Genre: Young Adult/Mystery/Psychological/Suspense
Recommended If You Like: twisty young adult mysteries, use of flashbacks, amusement parks

The Book:

Scarlett escaped from her captor once. Determined to put the past behind her, she is now working at a local amusement park. But when another girl goes missing, Scarlett starts to question the choices she made all those years ago.

What I Liked:

I'm going to jump right to the ending-the ending twist is amazing! This is another fantastic twist that made me gasp out loud and flip back pages to see how Panitch pulled off flipping her whole book on its head.

Panitch has a really nice writing style, that flows well and builds suspense for her story. She writes a unique take on a plot (missing girl) that has been written about a lot.

Anything I Didn't Like?

While I loved the ending twist, I did feel the very end came across as a bit melodramatic and didn't necessarily fit with the rest of the book.

So...?

I would definitely recommend this book. It's a quick, suspenseful read with a fantastic ending twist.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Review: Bel of the Brawl






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: Bel of the Brawl
Author: Maggie McConnon
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Recommended If You Like: cozy mysteries, strong female protagonists, wedding-themed cozies, vivid settings

The Book: 

Bel is a chef for weddings at her family's estate, but murders keep happening around the happy events. This time, its the groom who has died, and a waitress and ten thousand dollar tip that have gone missing. And remains have been found on the island where Bel's best friend disappeared many years ago.

What I Liked:

This was a great cozy mystery. The characters are vivid and unique, as is the setting. There are a lot of twists and turns, and a budding romance as well. The crime from the past, that of Bel's missing best friend, is really intriguing.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I wanted to know more about Bel's best friend's case! But that is not a fault of the author, rather a plus in her book, as it means she has me hooked for more books in this series.

I didn't like that the solution to the previous book in the series was mentioned in this book, thus giving that ending away before I could read it.

So...?

If you like cozy mysteries, I would definitely recommend this one. It has all the hallmarks of a great book of this genre-unique characters, a vivid setting, and a compelling mystery, plus something that has you hooked in and needing to read more.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Review: Meet Your Baker




Title: Meet Your Baker
Author: Ellie Alexander
Publication Date: December 30, 2014
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Recommended If You Like: food, small town settings, coffee, cozy mysteries, characters you can relate to, strong female narrators

The Book:

In this fun start to a cozy mystery series, Juliet "Jules" Capshaw has returned to her hometown, nursing a broken heart. She settles back into working at her family's bakery, Torte, but her healing time is interrupted by the discovery of a dead body in the kitchen.

What I Liked:

Juliet is a strong, capable, and complex narrator and protagonist. She is easy to relate to and root for, as she works to find her place in the world.

The supporting cast of characters are unique and vividly written. Even though there is a large cast of characters, I had no trouble remembering them and telling them apart.

The mystery is a very intriguing one, with a lot of twists, turns, and red herrings. I definitely didn't guess the ending!

Anything I Didn't Like?

My only complaint would be that Juliet sort of stumbled into the solution to the mystery, rather than solving it herself necessarily, but it was her hard work and detection skills that moved things along.

So...?

I actually read a later book in this series before this one, and enjoyed that one as well. This is definitely a series I see myself returning to in the near future.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Review: The Amateurs



I've become a little wary of Sara Shepard's books. I started and got hooked on both her previous series, Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game, only to give up on them a few books in when they got too outlandish for my tastes or simply lost my interest.

But from the minute I heard about her new book, The Amateurs, I knew I had to give it a try. It's centered around a website where online amateur sleuths attempt to solve cold cases, something I am fascinated by the idea of. A group from the website gets together in real life to try to solve one of the most famous and perplexing cold cases, that of a missing and then murdered teenage girl, but find things reach far further than they had ever anticipated.

This is a good read, and a quick one. I definitely found myself drawn in and wanting to know what happened next. The characters are compelling, as are the friendships and relationships forming between them. A few of the more minor characters verge on stereotypes that can feel overused, such as a crazed possible stalker female, but on the whole the characters are well-developed

And that ending! It is an amazing ending that left me gasping, and absolutely having to read the next book in the series. Shepard did an amazing job of hiding the truth right under her readers' noses, and it plays out brilliantly.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Review: A Study in Scarlet Women

Apologies if I don't update this as frequently as I typically do for the next few weeks. I've been having a lot of pain in my shoulder and neck, and finally went to the doctor this week. It turns out I have a pinched nerve and possibly slipped disc, which, among other things, means I can't carry hardcover books around (so I'm reading them at home with the book propped up on piles of pillows), and have to be careful on the computer. 



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: A Study in Scarlet Women
Author: Sherry Thomas
Publication Date: October 18, 2016
Genre: Mystery
Recommended If You Like: twists on the Sherlock Holmes canon, strong female protagonists

The Book: 

Charlotte Holmes refuses to mold herself to society's expectations of who a lady should be. Forced to fend for herself, she becomes entangled in the mysteries society tries to hide from the light of day.

What I Liked:

Sherlock Holmes is my all-time favorite literary character, and I am always intrigued by twists on the canon. I really enjoyed the nods Thomas gave to canon stories and characters, especially in the last chapter.

 I also love strong female protagonists, and Charlotte is very much her own woman. And while she is strong and brilliant, she is also human, allowing her to be easy to relate to as well.

Anything I Didn't Like?

There were way too many characters for me to keep track of. I got confused, especially towards the end, with who was who, and how they were connected. This affected my enjoyment of the solution of the mystery, because I wasn't sure I understood it all.

So...?

I had really high expectations for this book, given the positive reviews and accolades I had seen it getting, as well as the subject material. And it just didn't live up to them for me. It's by no means a bad book, but the mystery gets lost among the multitudes of characters and double (and even triple) identities.

I don't plan to be in a rush to pick up the rest of the series, though someday I might return to it in hopes that the author has tightened up the story lines and characters.


Friday, February 24, 2017

Review: The Girl Who Lied



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 Girl Who Lied
Author: Sue Fortin
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Genre: Psychological Suspense/Thriller
Recommended If You Like: secrets from the past, family drama, twists and turns

The Book:

Erin has been brought back to her hometown, a place she swore she'd never return to, by a family emergency. But her return has also brought her back in close contact with Roisin, her former friend, and Roisin says she knows the secret from her past Erin is desperate to hide.

What I Liked:

Books about secrets from the past are inherently intriguing to me. Fortin does a good job of interweaving information through flashbacks and character discoveries.

Erin is also a strong character, who goes on a compelling journey to find herself and her connection to her family again. The romance that begins to blossom between her and another character is one I definitely rooted for.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I was able to call a lot of the bigger twists a long time before they happened. It seemed to me like the clues that were planted were just too obvious most of the time.

The ending also seemed way too pat for a book with the kind of story lines this one has.

So...?

This isn't a bad book, and it's not a great one. It's a quick read, and a suspenseful one, but I wish it wasn't quite so predictable.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Reviews: Swiss Vendetta, The Turning, and Tricky Twenty-Two




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: Swiss Vendetta
Author: Tracee de Hahn
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Genre: Mystery
Recommended If You Like: mysteries in isolated locations, books with lots of characters, strong female protagonists

The Book:

Agnes Luthi, an Inspector in Switzerland, finds herself trapped in a mansion with a blizzard and a murderer. She must put aside the feelings she is still struggling with following the death of her husband, and figure out who among the many family members and guests committed the crime.

What I Liked:

I love mysteries set in isolated settings, so I was immediately drawn to this. It doesn't get much better, creepier, or more mysterious than a mansion no outsiders ever get to enter, snowed by a massive blizzard.

I also really liked that the main detective was a strong, smart, complex woman.

Anything I Didn't Like?

This book tried to do too much. There were so many characters and storylines it was hard to keep them all straight, and many plot points felt like they came out of left field because so much else was going on.

So...?

I wanted to love this book, but I just didn't. There was way too much going on, and the solution to the mystery, while interesting, just wasn't strong enough to carry the book.



Title: The Turning
Author: Francine Prose
Publication Date: September 25, 2012
Genre: Psychological Suspense/Paranormal/Horror
Recommended If You Like: young adult reads, modern takes on classics, gothic horror, the paranormal, books told through letters

The Book:

In a modern take on The Turn of the Screw, Jack has been hired to spend the summer on an island, in charge of two children. But as Jack spends more time isolated from the outside world, with Flora and Miles and their strange ways, he begins to see things that don't make sense--things that seem to fit all too well into the ghost stories he's been told.

What I Liked:

The Turn of the Screw is one of my all-time favorite books, so I always excited to read any sort of take on it. This was a creepy read that had some very suspenseful moments.

Anything I Didn't Like?

This book just didn't live up to what I was hoping for. This could definitely be due in part to my love of the original source material and how hard it would be for any other take to live up to the original story. 

But this book felt rushed to me, as if Prose was making up for the slow beginning by cramming the main events in too quickly. Character changes came so fast, and not in the creepy amazing way the original used to create paranoia of the paranormal. Jack's sudden changes didn't make sense, and the ghost aspect almost felt just thrown in at those parts to explain why Jack was so different all of a sudden. I don't think it was the physical shortness of the book either, as The Turn of the Screw is not a long book itself, and still manages to spin an incredibly complex and suspenseful tale.

The ending also felt cliched, and didn't really live up to the build up.

So...?

This is not a bad book, but it's not a great one. It's a quick and easy read if you're intrigued enough by the premise, like I was, but I wouldn't say it's urgent you go out and get a copy.



I absolutely love this series! It's guaranteed to make me laugh, and I love the characters. In this entry, Stephanie is tasked to track down a fraternity brother on the run, who is accused of assaulting the Dean. But the case is much more complex than it appears, and Stephanie finds herself drawn into a web of conspiracy and intrigue.

One of my favorite parts of this series is the relationship between Morelli and Stephanie (I'm absolutely a "Cupcake" girl), and I wasn't sure I liked where Evanovich was going with them in the beginning of this book. But by the end, I was happy with where they stood, and enjoyed the solution to the mystery as well. Grandma and Lula are also hysterically funny as always.

If you haven't discovered this series yet, hurry out and get the first book (I would highly recommend you start at the beginning with One For the Money)!


Saturday, February 18, 2017

2017 Love-A-Thon!

I love the Love-A-Thon, and am so excited to be a part of it again! This weekend got busier than I expected it to, but I will jump on and participate whenever I can.

QUESTIONNAIRE


 An Introduction to You and Your Blog


My name is Becca, and I am blogging from Chicago.




I've always been a reader. My parents met in a bookstore where they both worked, My mom is a storyteller, and my dad is a poet. Reading, and words, are such a huge part of my family. I've always loved books.

I got involved in the online book community through Librarything. I then joined Goodreads as well, and got intrigued by the idea of starting a blog. It seemed like a great way to start writing again, share about one of my absolute favorite things (books!), and meet other book lovers.

I chose a blog because it gave me a chance to start writing again, which I was really missing. I chose the blog name The Bookkeeper's Apprentice as an homage to a Sherlock Holmes' non-canon book, The Beekeeper's Apprentice. Sherlock Holmes is my all-time favorite fictional character (my dog is even named Sherlock!), and I loved the idea of naming my blog as if I was his apprentice (my dream job) --and I loved the play on bookkeeper (I own so many books and keep so many of them!). 

I do also do bookstagram-I love taking pictures of what I'm reading and my surroundings (and my dog!)


I love the online book community because everyone is so friendly, gives such good recommendations, and just genuinely love books and reading so much.

I typically post reviews, especially of mystery, thriller, suspense, and true crime. I read and review a lot of ARCs, as well as older books from my TBR bookcases and the library. I frequently participate in Top Ten Tuesday, and do What Are You Reading Wednesday and Five Friday.

Favorites

My favorite foods are pizza and my mom's egg salad. My favorite beverages are chai, coffee, tea, and rumchata. 

My favorite color is purple. Besides reading, I am a preschool teacher. I love spending time with my family and friends, cheering for my Bulls, watching TV and movies, coloring, making fan videos, and doing crossword puzzles.

I have a ton of favorite TV shows, past and present, including: Lost, Alias, Sherlock (BBC), Elementary, Criminal Minds, Bones, Castle, So You Think You Can Dance, Hunted, American Horror Story, Lethal Weapon, Psych, Sense8, Scream Queens, Bates Motel, The Mole, Shadowhunters, Harper's Island, Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, Hercule Poirot, Midsommer Murders, The West Wing, Lucifer, This Is Us, Project Runway, Face Off, America's Next Top Model, Veronica Mars, Scooby Doo, Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers, and The Amazing Race.

I have a lot of favorite movies too, including: Dirty Dancing, Identity, Scream, Psycho, Basic, Zodiac, Moana, Mulan, Tangled, Beauty and the Beast, Cry Wolf, Primal Fear, And Then There Were None (1945 and 2016 versions), Murder on the Orient Express, Step Up, Rent, and Grease.

My favorite music to listen to is Matt Nathanson (I have a tattoo of one of his lyrics on my shoulder, my very first tattoo), the Hamilton soundtrack, Rob Thomas, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, and Matchbox Twenty.

I love to shop anywhere that is a bookstore! I love thrift stores too, and have recently fallen in love with Lularoe. I also love Target.


Book Talk

My favorite books as a kid were Nancy Drew, Happy Hollisters, Sam the Cat, Moomintrolls, Linnea in Monet's Garden, and Rainy Day Kate. 

My favorite book of the last 21 years remains The Westing Game, which I have read more times than I can count. 

Some of my other top books are And Then There Were None (Agatha Christie is my all-time favorite author), The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Murder on the Orient Express, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Devil in the White City, and The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher. I also love any books by Gillian Flynn, Jennifer McMahon, Erle Stanley Gardner, Ngaio Marsh, P.D. James, Will Lavender, and Marisha Pessl.



Leave me a link to your Love-A-Thon post and I will try to come comment and leave some love! <3









Friday, February 17, 2017

Review: Before I Fall



Title: Before I Fall
Author: Lauren Oliver
Genre: Young Adult
Recommended If You Like: high school stories, character-driven tales, psychological insight, nostalgia, Groundhog Day

The Book:

Samantha is popular, with a gorgeous boyfriend and a group of best friends others in the school would die to be a part of. But it's Samantha who dies-and then wakes up, to relieve that last day of her life over and over again.

What does Samantha need to do to get it right this time? To figure it out, she will have to decide what really matters to her, and what is truly important in life.

What I Liked:

Oliver made high school come alive all over again for me in this book. I felt like I was right there with the characters, and it made me remember so vividly what it was like to be that age, riding in my best friend's car, music blasting.

This is also such an interesting concept for a book, and Oliver pulls it off well. Things never seen repetitive or boring, and there is a lot of suspense.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I sometimes felt like character development was a bit rushed. Despite this being a long book (over 400 pages), some characters still felt a bit one dimensional, with Oliver adding in details to flesh them out that just didn't really come together for me. I sometimes struggled with understanding the characters' motivations, even the main character and the reasoning behind her big changes.

So..?

This is a book I enjoyed, and that kept me interested--I flew through it, despite its length. But I didn't love it. Despite how well Oliver made the characters come alive, they still didn't feel as developed and three dimensional as I wanted them to be.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Book Couples I Love, and Review: Take the Fall



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

This week's Top Ten Tuesday is a romance freebie, so I decided to go with Ten Book Couples I Love!

1) Peeta and Katniss, The Hunger Games series

I was Team Peeta from the first time we met him, and Peeta and Katniss instantly became one of my OTPs. The way they come together, support each other, and grow together is so beautiful. I was so tense reading the last book in the trilogy, so afraid that they both wouldn't make it out alive, and that they wouldn't end up together.

2) Rose and Dimitri, Vampire Academy series

I love these books for so many reasons, but my top reason has to be Rose and Dimitri. They had so much romantic tension and chemistry building up between them, so many obstacles thrown in their way, and I was so rooting so hard for them to get their happy ending.

3) Nancy and Ned, Nancy Drew series

These two were one of my very first book OTPs. They are so sweet together, plus they solve mysteries as a brilliant team.

4) Vera and Phillip, And Then There Were None

This is one angsty couple that I couldn't help but root for. Their circumstances were dire, and they weren't necessarily very good people, but they seemed to have a chance to become better together. (It's also especially interesting that depending on whether you read the book, see the play, or which version of the movie you watch, their fate as a couple can be quite different.)

5) Tommy and Tuppence, various Agatha Christie mysteries

This is another excellent detective pairing. They bring out the best in each other, and go on amazing adventures solving mysteries together.

6) Elizabeth and Darcy, Pride and Prejudice
7) Emma and Mr. Knightley, Emma

It just wouldn't be a favorite book couples list without some couples from Jane Austen's books. These are classic and immensely popular couples for a reason--the buildup to their finally getting together is immense, and their love is beautiful.

8) Magnus and Alec, Mortal Instruments

I actually stopped reading this series after the fourth book, but I loved Magnus and Alec from the start. Even though I had lost interest in the other plots, I skimmed through the other books in the series to find their scenes and follow their story. 

9) Tris and Four, Divergent series

These two characters had so much chemistry to me, and so many obstacles to overcome, that I couldn't help but root for them. I loved that they made each other stronger and brought out the best in each other.

10) Lissa and Christian, Vampire Academy series

While these two faced different obstacles than their friends Rose and Dimitri, they too had so much to overcome, and so much chemistry.

What are some of your favorite book couples?

***





I'm always on the lookout for good young adult mysteries and thrillers, and Take the Fall is an excellent addition to that genre. 

It's the story of Sonia, who escaped an attack in the woods that left her best friend, Gretchen, dead. As Sonia attempts to come to grips with the events of that fateful night, she tries to understand what truly happened. But as Gretchen's secrets come to light, and Gretchen's ex-boyfriend Marcus emerges as the prime suspect, Sonia is forced to wrestle with her feelings in her fight towards the truth.

What really sets Take the Fall above many other books in this genre is the ending. It's an ending that had me gasping out loud, and frantically flipping back through the previous pages to see if it all made sense in retrospect--and it did. Hainsworth pulls off a end reveal that is shocking and brilliant.


Monday, February 13, 2017

Review: The Martian



I have a confession to make. I very rarely read science fiction. And I do mean very rarely. My favorite genres are absolutely mysteries, thrillers, suspense, and true crime, and almost all my reading comes out of these categories.

But the Popsugar Challenge had a challenge to read from a genre you don't normally read. So I went to my dad, who reads a lot of science fiction, and asked him for his recommendation. He always has great suggestions, so when he immediately said I should read The Martian, I borrowed his copy right away.

And, as always, my dad absolutely steered me right.

Weir has created the story of Mark Watney, an astronaut on a mission to Mars. But when a freak storm hits, Watney is left alone on Mars, believed dead.

Through ingenuity, intelligence, and a sense of humor, Watney somehow keeps going, figuring out a way to survive. But will it be enough to get him rescued?

I read The Martian in about a day, because I could not put it down. It was the kind of book I was thinking about whenever I wasn't reading it. I read it while I walked, and while I waited for the bus. It drove me crazy that it was sitting in my bag at work and I couldn't open it back up. As soon as I got home from work, I curled up in a chair and finished it.

What also impressed me was how thoroughly Weir must have done his research--and that he originally self-published this in serialized chapters, offering it for free before putting it on Amazon for the minimum ebook price allowed. It was there Weir's brilliant novel was discovered, and grew into the sensation it became.

I will admit quite a bit of the science went right over my head, and I did zone out a bit during some of the extremely technical scientific paragraphs. But this is truly the only negative I can find with this book, and that is solely based on my personal preference.

The Martian may be classified as science fiction, but it is also suspenseful, psychological, and thrilling. I can already tell it's going to be one of my top reads of the year.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Reviews: The Nightwalker, Girl with a Peal Earring, and Where'd You Go, Bernadette



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 Nightwalker
Author: Sebastian Fitzek
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Genre: Psychological Thriller/Suspense
Recommended If You Like: creepy reads, lots of twists and turns, a shocker of an ending

The Book:

Leon thought he was cured from the rampant and violent sleepwalking of his youth, but now his wife has disappeared. Desperate to find answers, Leon orders a motion activated camera to film what happens when he sleeps--and is stunned to see footage of him descending through a hidden door in his apartment that he has never seen before.

What I Liked:

This is a very suspenseful and eerie book. I could not put it down. Fitzek keeps the tension ratcheted up and doesn't let go.

The plot is so original too, I had to keep reading to know where the story was going. 

The ending--I won't go into details so as not to spoil it--but that last chapter is amazing, and packs such a punch. 

Anything I Didn't Like?

There really isn't anything I can think of that I didn't enjoy about this book. Every time I got worried Fitzek wasn't going to be able to live up the level of suspense and mystery he had created, he pulled out another twist. 

So...?

I would definitely recommend this book. It's a quick, extremely suspenseful read that is really original and clever. And that last chapter--worth the read just for that twist alone!


Chevalier has spun a beautiful piece of historical fiction around a famous painting. She tells the story of Griet, a maid in Vermeer's household, who becomes immersed in his world and his art.

Chevalier packs an emotional punch in a short novel, and makes art come alive through the written word. This is one of those books that truly deserves the hype it received upon its publication, and I'm only sorry I waited so long to finally read it.


I needed a light, fun read, and that is what I got here. I also got a book that manages to be emotional while still being funny.

Semple tells the story of Bernadette and her family. Bernadette has a past she doesn't talk about, and a beautiful but falling-apart home she hides away in. But when Bernadette disappears, it is left to her daughter, Bee, to piece what happened together. Bee uses faxes, e-mails, websites, and articles, plus her own experiences, to tell her mother's story, and find her.