Thursday, June 22, 2017

True Crime Thursday: True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa



This is Michael Finkel, a journalist. He was let go from the New York Times for falsifying information in a story about the chocolate trade and the working conditions of those employed to pick the cacao beans.


This is Christian Longo.  He was arrested for the murders of his wife and their three children.


What brought these two men together was the name Michael Finkel. While on the run from the law in Mexico, Longo impersonated Finkel, a journalist whose stories he had read and admired.

Finkel is hiding away at his home, disgraced after the truth about his chocolate trade story came out. When he receives a phone call from another reporter about Longo using Finkel's name, Finkel himself sees it as an opportunity to write another great story, this time one that is completely truthful. But as he gets sucked in by Longo's charms, Finkel begins to realize just how blurred the line between truth and lies can be.

This is an absolutely fascinating read. It is a murder mystery, as readers learn about the case along with Finkel. It is a psychological study of two men brought together by lies and the desire for redemption. It is a look at the relationship between journalist and subject, and where that relationship can shift and change into something resembling friendship-and the struggle to understand feeling kinship for a man who may have committed a horrible deed. And in the end, it is an examination of what it truly means to tell the truth and to tell a lie, to others and to yourself.








Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Review: The Hole



Title: The Hole
Author: Guy Burt
Publication Date: May 28, 2002
Genre: Horror/Psychological/Suspense/Thriller
Recommended If You Like: creepy reads, psychological horror

The Book:

Five students descend into a secret room on campus, locked in by a fellow student as part of what they believe will be the greatest prank yet. But when no one comes to let them out, they begin to realize they might be part of a far more terrifying psychological experiment instead.

What I Liked:

This is a creepy, suspenseful, gripping read. Burt uses flashbacks of "the Hole" expertly to both lead the reader on and keep them guessing.

The last chapter adds a whole other dimension to the story, and was definitely a major twist. I thought it was really clever-I love an ending that has me thinking back through the book to see what I missed and how everything fits.

Anything I Didn't Like?

Some of the sections moved really slowly, especially some of the flashbacks in "the Hole" early on in the story.

So...?

This is a really quick read-it just took me a few hours-and a gripping, scary, interesting one. It's worth picking up. The movie version is really good, and is actually one of those very rare occasions when I prefer the movie slightly to the book.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Review: The Sleep Room



Title: The Sleep Room
Author: F. R. Tallis
Publication Date: May 15, 2015
Genre: Gothic/Psychological/Suspense/Paranormal/Horror
Recommended If You Like: haunted asylums, stories with psychiatry, gothic-style horror, ghost stories

The Book:

A young psychiatrist gets the chance to work with his idol at an isolated asylum out in the countryside. He is especially interested in The Sleep Room, where young women are kept in an almost-perpetual state of sleep in an attempt to cure their seeming neuroses. But when mysterious things keep happening all around him, he is forced to consider that there may be more than meets the eye in this world.

What I Liked:

This is one creepy, suspenseful book! I'm automatically interested in ghost stories, and when they are set in an isolated asylum, especially one with a mysterious room, I'm doubly interested.

And the last chapter is mind blowing! It's one of those that made me gasp out loud when I read it.

Anything I Didn't Like?

The ending was amazing, but the rest of the book was just okay. It moves a little slowly, and then the last few chapters (besides the last one) feel rushed on their way to a conclusion.

So...?

This is by no means a bad read, it's a good one, just not a great one until the very last chapter.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: Dead Famous




Title: Dead Famous
Author: Ben Elton
Publication Date: Sep. 1, 2005
Genre: Mystery
Recommended If You Like: reality shows, mysteries that are very unique, locked room mysteries, the killer is one of us mysteries

The Book:

Contestants are locked in a house for a Big-Brother style British reality show called House Arrest. But then one of them is murdered, and even though the murder itself was caught on camera, the police find themselves in the middle of a complicated, twisted case they may not be able to solve.

What I Liked:

I watch a lot of reality TV (though not Big Brother), so I loved a mystery that was centered around a reality show. Elton does a brilliant job of playing around with the reality show contestant stereotypes and the tropes surrounding putting on and editing reality television.

I especially loved this mystery because not only is it set in a reality show, but because of the type of reality show, it becomes a locked room/the killer is one of us mystery, my favorite.

Elton uses flashbacks, the footage the country saw, and the unaired footage the production company kept back brilliantly to build suspense.

Anything I Didn't Like?

This was a re read for me, and it didn't quite hold up as strongly the second time through. I can't really put my finger on why, because I definitely enjoyed the re read a lot,

So...?

I would definitely recommend this book. It is a fun, clever, gripping read-I flew through the re read of it in a little over a day.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Review: Dis Mem Ber



Title: Dis Mem Ber
Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Genre: Short Stories/Psychological/Gothic/Suspense
Recommended If You Like: dark and twisty, stories exploring the psychology of women, short stories that pack a punch

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:

In this collection of seven short stories, Oates explores the darker side of human nature, through the psychological lens of various women protagonists and narrators.

What I Liked: 

I always enjoy Oates' short story collections. Her stories always have an eerie edge to them, frequently verging on gothic or even supernatural horror. She draws inspiration from everywhere, big and small-from a girl looking back on the car rides with her uncle, to tales surrounding widows, to a story based on the true tale of Elisa Lam.

Anything I Didn't Like:

It's not something I don't like, it's more just a heads up, that Oates stories don't frequently have a resolution nicely tied up in a bow. She leaves her readers' imaginations working, which actually makes the stories scarier.

So...?

I definitely recommend this short story collection, but it is not for everyone. These stories are dark, and twisted, and scary.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Reviews: Hospitality and Homicide, and The Missing One




Title: Hospitality and Homicide
Author: Lynn Cahoon
Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Recommended If You Like: bookstore mysteries, small town settings, romance with your mystery

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:

Jill Gardner not only owns a bookstore/coffee shop, but she also can't seem to help herself when it comes to getting involved in local mysteries. An author comes for a signing, but finds himself a prime suspect when a murder is committed that exactly mimics one in the first draft of his new book. Jill must try to figure out the truth behind the murder, keep her business going, and decide where her relationship with her police boyfriend is heading.

What I Liked:

Jill is a great lead character, surrounded by lots of interesting supporting characters. Her romance with Greg is one to root for as well.

The setting is a great one. I love small town mysteries, especially ones set in a bookstore.

The mystery was a well-plotted one, with the ending solution being a complete surprise.

Anything I Didn't Like:

There's not much to not like about this series. It has good characters, mystery, and setting.

So...?

If you're a cozy mystery reader, I would definitely recommend this series.


Title: The Missing One
Author: Lucy Atkins
Publication Date: Feb. 3, 2015
Genre: Fiction/Psychological/Mystery/Suspense
Recommended If You Like: female-centered fiction, nature-centric fiction, secrets from the past, books exploring family

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:

Kal has never felt like she truly knows her mother. When her mother passes from cancer, Kal is determined to discover the secrets of her mother's past. Taking only her son, leaving her possibly-cheating husband behind, Kal sets off to British Columbia. She heads to a remote island where a woman who once knew her mother lives, a woman who sent postcard after postcard simply stating "Thinking of You".

What I Liked:

I love a book about secrets from the past, and this definitely had plenty! I really liked the way Atkins used flashbacks to heighten the suspense and the mystery.

Atkins has also clearly done her research on orca whales-there is a lot of fascinating information about them contained in this story.

Anything I Didn't Like?

This book could have been shorter. I have absolutely nothing against long books, but this was one that felt too stretched out. It would have benefited from a little editing in that regard.

Some of the secrets were a little too predictable as well. I was able to call one of the biggest ones from pretty early on.

So...?

This was a good read, but not one I would say you have to run out and get right now. If you ever get to it, it's enjoyable. (It's one of those where rating it is tricky-I would give it 3 stars, because it is good, but didn't enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed other 3 star books.)


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Review: Half-Price Homicide



Title: Half-Price Homicide
Author: Elaine Viets
Publication Date: May 3, 2011
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Recommended If You Like: career-centered cozies, strong female protagonists

The Book:

Helen Hawthorne has had to take a string of jobs to stay under the radar of her ex-husband, who was handed half of her income in an unfair divorce decree. Her current job is working at a consignment store that caters to the elite who don't have quite as much money as they would like.

But when a customer is murdered in the store, Helen finds herself once again thrust into the police's spotlight as a prime suspect. She must solve the crime to free herself from suspicion.


What I Liked:

I really enjoy this series!

Helen is a great leading character, strong with a sense of humor. The concept is a strong one, with Helen in a different job each book, which really keeps things fresh and interesting. The romance is definitely one to root for, as are the main characters.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I did feel like Viets tried to fit too much into this book. Some of the side plots felt way out of left field, and some of the minor characters verged on caricatures, and I suspect this was because there was just so much going on.

Also, just a heads up that if you haven't read the earlier books in the series, there are some spoilers for earlier plot points in this one.

So...?

While this wasn't the best book in the series, it was still a good one, and this is still a cozy mystery series I would absolutely recommend.


Friday, June 9, 2017

Review: The World's Greatest Detective



Title: The World's Greatest Detective
Author: Caroline Carlson
Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Genre: Middle Grade/Mysteries
Recommended If You Like: fun mysteries, throwbacks to the Golden Age of mysteries, strong kid protagonists

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:

Toby Montrose has been passed around from relative to relative, ever since his parents disappeared in a boating accident. Now he finds himself with his Last Relative, Uncle Gabriel, who lives on Detective's Row and has fallen on hard times.

Toby dreams of being a detective himself, and when the most famous detective, Hugh Abernathy, opens up a contest to determine the World's Greatest Detective, Toby knows he has to be a part of it. But when the game is no longer a game, Toby must solve a real-life murder.

What I Liked:

This is such a fun book! It reminds me of the kid-centric mysteries I used to read when I was younger, and always enjoy revisiting. The mystery is clever, and the characters are really likable and easy to root for.

I also loved the nods to other famous literary detectives. There were some definite homages to characters like Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple that really made me grin.

Anything I Didn't Like?

There really wasn't anything not to like about this mystery. I'm hopeful it becomes a series!

So...?

I would definitely recommend this read. It won't take you long at all, and you'll have a lot of fun while reading.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten of My Anticipated Reads for the Rest of 2017



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

This week's theme is Ten of My Anticipated Reads for the Rest of 2017!

1) 

Anything billed as Serial meets In a Dark, Dark Wood automatically makes it on my can't wait to read list! I was so excited to get an ARC of this and can't wait to start it.

2)

Another ARC I was so excited to get! I've loved both of Ware's previous books and this one sounds amazing as well.

3)


I definitely pre-ordered this one. I love all things Sherlock Holmes, and this looks like a fascinating look at Holmes from conception to today.

4)


Billed as Scream meets YA!

5)


I adore this series, and while I'm sad it's ending, I can't wait to see how Petty ends it!

6) 


This is another excellent-looking YA suspense novel, about a group of teenagers who suspect their parents have come together to try to kill them.

7)


This looks like a book in the vein of You, which I read this year and could not put down.

8)


I've always been fascinated by the "fairy photographs" story, and Gaynor ties that in to a present day (fictional) tale.

9)


I'm always interested in a book where the line between fiction and reality is blurred, especially one with a book within a book.

10)


I'm always intrigued by an unreliable narrator and an exploration of how well the characters truly know each other.

What are some books you're looking forward to reading?

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Review: The Decagon House Murders


Title: The Decagon House Murders
Author: Yukito Ayatsuji
Publication Date: June 20, 2015 (English translation)
Genre: Mystery/Psychological/Suspense
Recommended If You Like: And Then There Were None, twisty mysteries

The Book: 

When a group of students from a Japanese university, all part of a mystery fiction club, move into the Decagon House for a week, they think it is simply to visit and understand the site where a notorious multiple murder occurred the year previously. But as they start dying one by one, they begin to realize somewhere on the island there is once again a murderer.

What I Liked:

This is such a clever, gripping read! It reads as a Japanese homage of sorts to one of my all-time favorite books, And Then There Were None (a muse the book readily has the characters themselves acknowledge). This is a book that is scary, suspenseful, and surprising. I could not put this book down, and read it in less than a day. And I never saw the ending coming, it absolutely blew my mind.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I just wish that more of Yukito Ayatsuji's books were translated into English! I would read more in a heartbeat.

So...?

I studied Japanese literature in college (including a Japanese Horror class), and it was a wonderful treat to return to something I had read a lot of and loved. And to have such a great take on my second favorite book of all time just made it even better. I definitely recommend this book.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Review: Murderous Mayhem at Honeychurch Hall



Title: Murderous Mayhem at Honeychurch Hall
Author: Hannah Dennison
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Recommended If You Like: cozy mysteries, British settings, mother-daughter duos, history with your mystery

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:

Kat hosted a famous antiquing television show, but now she owns a small antique store off the estate of Honeychurch Hall. A string of crimes begin to occur, including robbery, a missing manuscript, and murder, and Kat must solve the mysteries while settling into her new life and the possibility of romance.

What I Liked:

This was a fun, clever mystery. The characters are all really unique. Kat especially is likeable and easy to relate to.

The mystery is also a good one, full of lots of layers and twists and turns. All the little mysteries add up to one big one in a way that makes sense, but is still surprising.

Anything I Didn't Like?

Some of the characters were not likable, at least to me, but that definitely seemed like it was on purpose. Kat had to have some foils and some people to suspect right off the bat.



Sunday, May 21, 2017

COYER Summer Reading List Challenge!

COYER

I love COYER, and especially love this new reading list twist! Here is my list:

1) Come, Tell Me How You Live by Agatha Christie
2) The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
3) The Best American Crime Reporting 2008 edited by Jonathan Kellerman
4) The Baker Street Translation by Michael Robertson
5) Christine Falls by Benjamin Black
6) The Fifth Heart by Dan Simmons
7) Sherlock Holmes: Seance for a Vampire by Fred Saberhagen
8) The False Friend by Myla Goldberg
9) The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell
10) The Run of His Life by Jeffrey Toobin
11) Afterwards by Rosamund Lipton
12) Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood by William J. Mann
13) A Circle of Wives by Alie LaPlante
14) The Devil's Gentleman by Harold Schechter
15) Scales of Justice by Ngaio Marsh
16) True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa by Michael Finkel
17) Crippen by John Boyne
18) Beneath the Bleeding by Val McDermid
19) The Cradle in the Grave by Sophie Hannah
20) Frog Music by Emma Donoghue
21) Fig Eater by Jody Shields
22) Mindhunter by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker
23) The Church of Dead Girls by Stephen Dobyns
24) The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood
25) The Fever by Megan Abbott
26) The Drowning Tree by Carol Goodman
27) The Longing of Wayward Girls by Karen Brown
28) The Sleep Room by F. R. Tallis
29) The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight
30) The Lighthouse by P.D. James

Friday, May 19, 2017

Review: Killers of the Flower Moon



Title: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
Author: David Grann
Publication Date: April 18, 2017
Genre: True Crime/Non-Fiction
Recommended If You Like: Grann's previous works, conspiracies, true crime, an examination of the underbelly of American history

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:

Grann has carefully researched "The Reign of Terror", when the Osage both gained riches and lost their lives. Examining the search for the perpetrator or perpetrators of the heinous homicides, Grann also tells the tale of how the FBI became involved.

What I Liked:

This is such a multi-layered book. It is a murder mystery, as readers follow along with the FBI to learn the twists and turns. It is an examination of racial prejudice, the Osage having to ask their white guardians for permission to use their own money, all while being poisoned, shot, and blown to pieces. It is a history of a section of the Wild Wild West, and of the FBI, and of families who lost so many. And it is Grann's search for answers to the overarching conspiracy that swept so many up in its wake.

Anything I Didn't Like?

There is really nothing not to like about this book. Grann writes non-fiction like a novel, and it flows so beautifully.

So...?

I definitely recommend this read.


Monday, May 15, 2017

Reviews: Always Watching, and They All Fall Down


This was one of those books that started stronger than it finished. A psychologist encounters a patient who keeps speaking about a commune-the very same commune the psychologist was a part of as a child. Could it be something at the commune that caused the psychologist's intense claustrophobia and the patient's suicide attempts?

I'm always intrigued by a mystery surrounding secrets from the past, and when you add in a mysterious leader who may have turned his commune into a cult, that's a book I have to read.

But Stevens just added too much else, and too many other characters. There's her brother who was also a commune member, his former best friend, the homeless daughter with secrets of her own who may or may not be back on drugs, the stepson photographer who pops in and out, all the members of the commune past and present, the psychologist's other patients, her co-workers, and the cops.

All these characters bring their own subplots, and too many subplots take away from the main plot. This book has a lot of potential, but could stand from some editing. There are some really well-done surprising reveals, but they unfortunately get overwhelmed by all that is going on around them.


Similar to the book I reviewed above, this is another book that suffers from trying to do too much, and overstretching an interesting premise. When the narrator, a self-described Latin nerd, finds herself number five on the legendary "Hottie List" at her school, her whole world changes--including finding herself narrowly escaping a series of almost-lethal accidents.

It turns out she is not the only girl on the list who keeps finding herself in danger. As girls around her fall victim to their own mysterious accidents, in the order they are found on the list, our narrator must find a way to solve the mystery and save herself.

Where the book lost me was towards the end. It's such an intriguing concept-ten people on a list, mysteriously dying one by one in ways that could never be proven as murder-but the end of the book gets, to put it bluntly, ridiculous. The way St. Claire chooses to resolve the mystery just doesn't work for me at all.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Review: Wedding Bel Blues



Title: Wedding Bel Blues
Author: Maggie McConnon
Publication Date: May 31, 2016
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Recommended If You Like: cozy mysteries, mysteries about food, mysteries about families, strong female protagonists

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:

Belfast McGrath's culinary career crashed and burned in New York, leading her to (temporarily, she hopes) move back in with her large family--and get roped into becoming the cook for their wedding business. But when someone dies at her cousin's wedding, Bel finds herself drawn into solving both the mystery and the secrets of her family's past.

What I Liked:

Bel is a great character. She's strong, but struggling, smart but still trying to figure life (and her heart) out. Her family is also full of great characters, all unique.

The mystery is also a good one, full of lots of twists and turns. Almost everyone has a motive, and everyone has a secret. The reveals at the end are especially surprising, which is always a good thing in my eyes.

I'm also really intrigued by the mystery from Bel's past, of what happened the night her best friend disappeared.

Anything I Didn't Like?

There's not much not to like about this series. There are a lot of characters, and how everyone is related (or not related) can get a little confusing at times.

So...?

I've really enjoyed the two books I've read in this series so far, and would definitely recommend them to cozy mystery fans.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Review: Love & Death in Burgundy



Title: Love & Death in Burgundy
Author: Susan C. Shea
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Recommended If You Like: mysteries set in France, cozy mysteries, delicious descriptions of food

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:

Katherine and her husband Michael are Americans who now live in a small village in France. Katherine desperately wants to fit in with her neighbors, but as an American, they just don't accept her. But when the elderly owner of the historic chateau is found dead at the bottom of the stairs, Katherine is determined to solve the mystery and prove her worth.

What I Liked:

The descriptions of the food and France are fantastic! All I wanted while I was reading this book was to be eating baguettes and cheese, and drinking fine wine, while lounging in France.

Shea is excellent at making her characters three dimensional. I really felt what they were feeling, and felt compelled to know their stories (even the less likable characters).

Anything I Didn't Like?

The mystery was good, but not great. The problem wasn't the sections where the mystery wasn't the main focus, because the characters were written so well, but rather the solution itself was merely okay. I was hoping for a bit more.

So...?

I can see this becoming a really good cozy mystery series. I suspect the mysteries will get stronger as the series goes on, and the characters definitely are strong enough to carry this book.


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Review: Long Black Veil



Title: Long Black Veil
Author: Jennifer Finney Boylan
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Genre: Psychological/Suspense/Mystery
Recommended If You Like: explorations of identity and relationships, secrets from the past

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:

A group goes into the ruins of Eastern State Penitentiary one night, but not all of them come back out alive. What happened that night stays with them, changing who they are and the path their lives will take. When a detective begins investigating the cold case again, it forces the former friends to confront their pasts and what truly happened that night.

What I Liked:

I love the premise of this book, an old abandoned building that might be haunted, the mystery of what happened that night and how it occurred. The mystery is so intriguing.

Boylan handles the subject of identity and how it is defined and developed so deftly.

As a bonus, it was so fun to see so many shout outs to my alma mater, which Boylan is also a graduate of.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I wanted more from the mystery itself. I feel like the solution was revealed too early, and wasn't the surprise I was hoping for.

So...?

I liked this book, but didn't love it. From the description on the book, I was hoping for a lot more from the mystery itself.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Review: The Roanoke Girls



Title: The Roanoke Girls
Author: Amy Engel
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Recommended If You Like: twisted family dramas, flashbacks, stories set in small towns

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:

Lane was a Roanoke girl, beautiful and rich, once she was sent to live with her grandparents and cousin after her mother killed herself.

But something caused Lane to flee that life, and promise herself she would never go back. But when her cousin disappears, Lane must face what happened to her all those years ago.

What I Liked:

Engel has written some very complex characters. No one is perfect, and even the characters I would consider to be the villains of this piece had shades of grey.

This is also a compelling and gripping read that I couldn't put down. The flashbacks create a lot of tension that kept me having to turn pages.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I predicted the big family secret just by reading the back cover. It's not supposed to be a secret for long, I suspect, as a main part of it is revealed a few chapters in, but I still was hoping for more mystery longer. The secret was also a difficult one to read about for sure.

So...?

Even though there didn't end up being as much of a mystery behind the family secret as I hoped for, this was a book I couldn't put down.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Review: Burntown


Title: Burntown
Author: Jennifer McMahon
Publication Date: April 25, 2017
Genre: Mystery/Psychological/Suspense/Thriller
Recommended If You Like: McMahon's previous works, unique psychological thrillers, mysteries with twists, a touch of the supernatural and paranormal

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:

Necco was once known as Eva, when her family were all still alive, before her father and brother died in a terrible flood. Unable to remember what happened that day, Necco has always had to trust her mother's stories, told to her under the influence of "the devil's snuff" while they lived on the streets with a community of women known as fire eaters.

But now her mother is dead too, and when her boyfriend is murdered as well, Necco realizes she has no choice but to solve the mystery of her past.

What I Liked:

Jennifer McMahon is one of my all-time favorite authors. I have read and re read everything she's ever written, and when I found out I had gotten an ARC of this book, I could not have been more excited. And McMahon did not disappoint one bit.

McMahon is able to balance so much so well in this book. There is everything from visions brought on by the devil's snuff, to a mysterious invention purported to be based on plans from Albert Einstein himself, to a cafeteria worker who dreams of starring in the circus--and in McMahon's expert hands, everything works beautifully and compellingly.

The characters are all so complex and multi-layered, and while Necco is definitely the main protagonist, the supporting characters come alive and stand apart in their own rights. Each character is crucial and has an important part to play.

The mystery is fantastic, so unique, and so well-executed. There are lots of twists and turns, something McMahon is definitely known for.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I did feel I was able to predict more of the twists than I usually can with McMahon's books. They were still great twists, but I was able to guess some of them a few chapters before they actually were brought out in the plot.

So...?

I cannot recommend McMahon's books enough. They do not have to be read in any specific order, so grab this one (it's out today!) and read your way through her amazing body of work!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Review: Blacklist



Title: Blacklist
Author: Alyson Noel
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
Genre: Young Adult/Mystery
Recommended If You Like: young adult mysteries, books about secrets, behind-the-scenes looks at celebrity culture

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:

Picking up where the first book in the series left off, there is a presumed murder to solve, a celebrity's past to unlock, and a friend who needs their innocence proven.

What I Liked:

This is such a fun, well-done young adult mystery series. I really like that Noel manages to keep the momentum from the first book going without losing steam, and while continuing the mystery in a way that makes sense and flows well.

The characters are complex, and their relationships are compelling. I especially enjoy how well Noel has kept characters that could have been so one-dimensional so human instead.

Anything I Didn't Like?

There really isn't anything not to like about this series. It reminds me of Pretty Little Liars back in its heyday when the books were still full of strong mysteries and unique characters. I would have liked to have more of the mystery solved, but that's just because the mystery is so good that I want to know more as soon as possible.

So...?

I definitely recommend this series. They are quick, fun reads that will suck you in and leave you wanting to read more.

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.