Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Blog Tour: Dead Girls Can't Lie



Author Bio

Carys Jones loves nothing more than to write and create stories which ignite the reader's imagination. Based in Shropshire, England, Carys lives with her husband, two guinea pigs and her adored canine companion Rollo.

Follow Carys

Twitter: @tiny_dancer85
Facebook: @CarysJonesWriter
Instagram: tiny_dancer_8
Website: www.carys-jones.com


Book Description

Best friends tell each other the truth – don't they?
When North Stone's best friend Kelly Orton is found hanging lifeless in a tree, North knows for certain it wasn't suicide. Kelly had everything to live for – a loving boyfriend, a happy life, and most importantly of all, Kelly would never leave North all by herself.
The girls have been friends since childhood, devoted to each other, soul sisters, or at least that's what North has always believed. But did Kelly feel the same way, or was she keeping secrets from her 'best friend' – deadly secrets...
When the police refuse to take North's suspicions seriously, she sets out to investigate for herself. But her search soon takes her to a glamorous world with a seedy underbelly, and before long North is out of her depth and getting ever closer to danger. Determined to find the truth, she soon wishes that dead girls could lie, because the truth is too painful to believe...


Buy links

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2s2P3Ql

Carys’ previous novels, WrONG NUMBER and LAST WITNESS are out now: http://amzn.to/2qarsiV


Follow Aria

Facebook: @ariafiction
Twitter: @aria_fiction
Instagram: @ariafiction
Sign up to the Aria newsletter: http://bit.ly/2jQxVtV



Favorite part of this book: The depiction of the power and bond of female friendships; the realistic portrayal of anxiety

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Review: See What I Have Done



Title: See What I Have Done
Author: Sarah Schmidt
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Genre: Historical Fiction/Suspense
Recommended If You Like: fictional takes on true crime, family drama, psychological insights into history

The Book:

Everyone thinks they know what really happened that fateful day in Fall River. Everyone has an opinion on Lizzie Borden's guilt or innocence.

Schmidt explores what could have happened from four points of view: Lizzie herself, Emma, her sister, Bridget, the family's maid, and Benjamin, a stranger brought into the outskirts of their world.

What I Liked:

There is so much to like about this book. Schmidt has a beautiful lyrical writing style that makes everything that's happening feel both real and surreal.

This book is also absolutely fascinating. Schmidt has clearly done her research, and can back her theories up. Even though I know a lot of facts about this case, Schmidt had me turning page after page, having to find out what happens, unable to put it down.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I did feel the addition of Benjamin was somewhat unnecessary. The people involved in this true story are already fascinating enough without needing to add in a fictional mysterious stranger.

So...?

I've always read and watched about unsolved mysteries, and the Borden case is one of those I've read about a lot. So I was extremely excited to read this book, and it did not disappoint. I would definitely recommend this book.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

ARC August #4: Spellbook of the Lost and Found



Title: Spellbook of the Lost and Found
Author: Moira Fowley-Doyle
Publication Date: August 8, 2017
Genre: Fantasy/Magical Realism
Recommended If You Like: beautifully surreal reads, friendship, romance, magic

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 spellbook appears. A town begins to lose things big and small. Diary pages begin to appear in bunches of flowers and on the side of the road. And through it all, various girls lose themselves and try to find themselves again, through friendships, romance, and ties to the past and future, all with the help of some magic.

What I Liked:

This book is so beautifully written. It's just got this gorgeously surreal tinge through it all, but Fowley-Doyle also manages to make it feel so real and immediate. I cared deeply about the characters and what was going to happen to them.

There are also some unexpected and amazing twists and turns, especially towards the end of the book.

Anything I Didn't Like?

For me personally, there really wasn't anything not to like about this book. The ending felt a little pat, but I actually liked that, which isn't typically the case for me. I can see how it wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, but I really enjoyed it, even though this is definitely not the typical genre I gravitate towards.

So...?

Definitely try this book. Not everyone seems to have liked it, but I found it very beautiful, and a quick read.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Book Recommendations For People Looking to Get Into Agatha Christie's Works



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

This week's topic is Ten Book Recommendations For ________. Lately, I've seen a lot of people in Facebook book groups looking to start reading Agatha Christie, and wondering which books of hers people would recommend the most. So here are ten of my favorite books by my all-time favorite author, in hopes Ms. Christie will gain even more readers!


This book was definitely controversial when it came out, with Christie even being accused of having cheated her readers, but I think it's absolutely brilliant. Christie invented a trope (I won't say any more so as not to spoil anything) that is extremely popular today.

Christie is the master of taking what you think you know, and turning it on its head. This one is full of twists and turns, and lots of drama, as Poirot attempts to protect a young woman from multiple attempts on her life.


This is my absolute favorite Miss Marple. It's a collection of short stories, all linked, where a group gathers and attempts to solve crimes shared by other members.


With a killer who strikes in alphabetical order, readers are right there with Poirot as he attempts to narrow down the list of victims among all of England's population, before it's too late and the killer strikes again.


This has already had an excellent movie adaptation, and there is an adaptation coming to the big screen in November. Definitely read the book before seeing the movie. Christie combines a snowbound train, a murder victim, and railroad cars full of suspects, into eerie suspense.


This is not only Christie's first published work, but the book where Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings are introduced.


I love books about secrets from the past, and Christie delivers that full force here. A group is reunited one year after a mysterious death at the very table they are sharing again.\


This is one of Christie's most famous books (if not her most famous) for a reason-it is pure genius. The story is terrifying and suspenseful, as ten strangers find themselves gathered on an isolated island by a murderer. There have also been two excellent movie adaptations, and it is the inspiration behind a lot of modern books, such as Ten, Ten Dead Comedians, and The Decagon House Murders. 


In this tale, Christie features a character who collects murderers--specifically those who have gotten away with their crimes. 


Here, a murder is, as the title states, actually announced before it occurs. A group gathers to see if the person who posted the announcement will actually go through with it, and then the lights go off...This was actually the very first Christie book I read, and I was hooked!


Have you read any Agatha Christie before? Which book did you start with?


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Review: The Outliers



Title: The Outliers
Author: Kimberly McCreight
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Genre: Young Adult/Suspense/Thriller
Recommended If You Like: lots of suspense, surprises, realistic depictions of anxiety, twists and turns

The Book:

Already struggling with deep anxiety, Wylie is unable to leave her house after her mother's death. She hasn't spoken to her best friend, Cassie, since their last big fight. But when she receives a text from Cassie, begging for help, Wylie knows she has to go and save her. Along with Cassie's boyfriend, Jasper, Wylie follows the clues Cassie keeps texting to her. But soon Wylie begins to realize there might be much more going on than she could ever have predicted.

What I Liked:

This is a book that never let up on the suspense and thrills once it got going. I got completely sucked in and could not put the book down. I really liked how McCreight managed to take her usual fantastic psychological suspense and mystery style, and mix it into a young adult book that ended up going off on an entirely different track (I don't want to say too much because I don't want to spoil anything).

I also thought McCreight did an excellent job of realistically portraying anxiety. As someone with an anxiety disorder myself, it's so important to me to read a book that not only has a main character with anxiety, but one who is relatable and strong.

Anything I Didn't Like?

The book did start out pretty slow for me. This didn't last long, but it did take a bit for me to get into it.

So...?

I know this book really split McCreight fans-a lot didn't like it, and I can see where they are coming from, because it is so different from her previous works. But I really liked it, and can't wait to read the next book in the series.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

ARC August Review #3: Emma in the Night



Title: Emma in the Night
Author: Wendy Walker
Publication Date: August 8, 2017
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Recommended If You Like: twisty family dramas, shocking revelations, mysterious islands, psychology

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:

Cass and her sister Emma have been missing for three years. When Cass returns home, without Emma, she tells a tale of a kidnapping, hostages, and a mysterious island. Dr. Winters, a forensic psychiatrist, was drawn into this case when the sisters originally disappeared--and now that one sister is back, and talking, Dr. Winters finds there may be even more going on within this family then she originally thought.

What I Liked:

This is a book full of so many twists and turns, which I absolutely love. One of the biggest revelations near the end caught me completely by surprise. I really liked that Walker kept me guessing over who to trust and who to believe.

Walker has a really excellent writing style as well, that really draws you in. This is a story that had me flipping pages, having to find out what happened.

I also really liked the use of psychology in this. Walker has done her research, and uses Dr. Winters almost as a surrogate to explore the ins and outs of this mysterious family.

Anything I Didn't Like?

The book occasionally moved a little slow, especially after the initial impact of the beginning. I also felt that the very final revelation, while making sense with the character's provided explanation, didn't seem necessary to me, and felt a bit out of place.

So...

This was a good read that absolutely had me hooked. I would definitely recommend this for fans of the genre.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Arc August Review #2: Shadow of the Lions



Title: Shadow of the Lions
Author: Christopher Swann
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Genre: Psychological Suspense/Mystery
Recommended If You Like: books set in boarding schools, male friendships, mysteries 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:

Matthias' best friend and roommate, Fritz, disappeared during their senior year at boarding school, and Matthias has always blamed himself.

Now, after one highly successful novel and complete writer's block since, Matthias finds himself back teaching at his former school. The memories that surround him make him determined to solve the mystery of what truly happened to Fritz.


What I Liked: 

Swann has a really nice writing style. He has a lot to say, and says it really beautifully. I felt emotionally drawn into the book and wanting to know more. There's a real sense of suspense to this read, with a lot of effective flashbacks.

Plus, I always love a book set in a school.

Anything I Didn't Like?

This book kind of fell apart for me about halfway through. Swann had too much he was trying to do, and it all started to feel forced. The ending really felt like too much, and didn't end up feeling real or even making a lot of sense.

So...?

I really wanted to love this book, especially with its comparison to The Secret History, one of my all-time favorite books. And this was definitely a suspenseful read-I found myself having to keep turning pages until I got to the end. But Swann just tried to cram way too much in for my tastes, and the ending left me confused and dissatisfied.


Monday, August 7, 2017

ARC August Review #1: Girl in Snow



Title: Girl in Snow
Author: Danya Kukafka
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Recommended If You Like: multiple-character perspectives, musings on love, characters who feel real, complex characters

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:

When high school student Lucinda is murdered, it brings out repressed feelings in her own town-especially for Cameron, Jade, and Russ, three characters caught up in painful memories and lost loves of their own.

What I Liked:

This is a beautifully written book. Kukafka has a great writing style that makes you think and makes you feel. It was like I was right there along with the characters, feeling what they were feeling, trying to figure out life and love as they did.

Anything I Didn't Like?

The resolution of the mystery of who killed Lucinda felt a bit rushed. The build up was so suspenseful and mysterious, and the revelation was definitely a big surprise, but I wanted more from it.

So...?

I definitely liked this book. It's not the best in this genre I've ever read, but Kukafka has a writing style I really enjoy.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Review: Magpie Murders




There are times when you need to write a review immediately upon finishing a book, a gushing review that pretty much just states that said book is amazing and everyone needs to read it. This is one of those times, and Magpie Murders is one of those books.

There is everything to love about this book. It's so cleverly meta, containing a book within a book (and the book within a book even has its own reviews, author page, and page numbers), and thus a mystery within a mystery. Each mystery is brilliant and brilliantly written, with shocking, surprising reveals. The mystery within a mystery is an homage to Agatha Christie and that golden age of mysteries, and there are great shout outs and name drops to other wonderful mystery authors and books.

This is a book that reminds me why I love mysteries ("whodunnits" as one of the narrators refers to them as)--the mad rush to turn page after page because I have to find out what is happening next, the obsessive tallying of clues and possible suspects, getting lost in small English villages with brilliant detectives, a cast of characters both unique and so familiar, and that gasp out loud that comes when I reach the solution to the mystery and realize I've been completely fooled (and I love the book even more for fooling me).

I tend to get anxious about rating things-just how many stars to give a book can be something I go back and forth on, and in the end, I'm still not sure the star rating really accurately reflects how I feel about a book, and where I would rank it on my list of reads. But for this book, five stars is completely accurate and deserved. Go read this book, right now. I can't recommend it enough.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Review: Are You Sleeping?



Title: Are You Sleeping
Author: Kathleen Barber
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Genre: Psychological Suspense/Mystery
Recommended If You Like: Serial and other true crime podcasts, psychological suspense, family drama, secrets from the past, social media in books

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:

When she was a child, Josie's father was murdered, and her twin sister, Lanie, witnessed it. Their lives were completely torn apart, causing Josie to pull away and even change her name. But now a new podcast is revisiting the case, and suggesting that Lanie lied, putting the wrong person in jail.

What I Liked:

I could not put this book down! It was so gripping and so suspenseful. Barber did a fantastic job of planting these little clues so the reader felt like Josie and the listeners of the podcasts, trying to put the true story together.

The use of a podcast-theme throughout was also genius. I loved Serial, and that immediately drew me to this book. I loved the use of social media throughout the book's pages, from podcast transcripts to reddit threads to twitter. I also really liked that through Josie and her family, Barber also explored the other side of these podcasts-how they affect the victims and their families, knowing everyone is talking and speculating about the crime that tore them apart.

Anything I Didn't Like?

There really wasn't anything not to like about this book. It completely drew me in, and kept surprising me.

So...?

Definitely read this book! You won't be able to put it down.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Review: The Goddesses



Title: The Goddesses
Author: Swan Huntley
Publication Date: July 25, 2017
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Recommended If You Like: Swan Huntley's previous book, explorations of friendships and relationships, Hawaii as its own character

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:

Nancy, her husband, and their two boys move to Hawaii in an attempt to save their family from falling apart. But when Nancy meets Ana, her other relationships take a backseat to Ana's magnetic personality--and Nancy not only knows, but accepts, that whatever Ana wants, she will get.

What I Liked:

This is definitely a suspenseful book. Readers know something is lurking on the horizon, and you can feel it on every page.

I really enjoy Huntley's writing style. It has a beautiful flow to it, and she can really make you see what her characters are seeing and feel what they are feeling.

Hawaii was really its own character in this book, which was great. Huntley really makes Hawaii come alive in a way that even readers who have never been there can appreciate.

Anything I Didn't Like?

This book does move really slowly. There is a lot of suspense to it, but it takes quite a while to get to what the suspense is building up to.

I also really struggled to like the character of Ana. I think this is what Huntley was going for, but I disliked Ana so much that I had trouble getting into the book and staying involved.

I also saw the big revelation at the end coming before I had even finished a third of the book. It felt really obvious to me.

So...?

I didn't love this book like I wanted to. I just had such a struggle with the characters, and being able to predict the biggest revelation from so early on really took away from the reading experience.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Review: When I Am Through With You



Title: When I Am Through With You
Author: Stephanie Kuehn
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Recommended If You Like: suspense built of situation, unreliable narrators

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:

Ben just wanted to find some meaning for his life, some hope for a future he's not looking forward to. But leading what should have been a simple camping trip soon turns into tragedy. It's a story Ben will tell--but he's going to take his time.

What I Liked:

This is a great concept for a book. From the start, there is so much suspense. You know Ben is only doling out little details at a time, and you don't know how much to trust him and how much to read between the lines. This makes you have to keep turning pages, all with a building sense of dread.

Anything I Didn't Like?

The concept didn't play through the way I was hoping for. The first third of the book felt like it was set up as a classic unreliable narrator, eerie, super psychologically suspenseful read. But then events veered onto a path that just didn't work for me.

So...?

While this book definitely kept me turning pages-Kuehn has a talent for creating suspense-this book just didn't do it for me.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Review: The Wicked Girls



Title: The Wicked Girls
Author: Alex Marwood
Publication Date: July 30, 2013
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Recommend If You Like: secrets from the past, suspenseful flashbacks, explorations of human nature

The Book:

When they were children, Bel and Jade spent one day together, and by the time that day was through, the world would see them as murderers.

Now adults, living new lives under new names, the two women are brought together by the mysterious strangling deaths occurring in and around an amusement park--and they are forced to wonder just how much of their own pasts will be brought out into the present.

What I Liked:

This is a book that just flies by-I read three quarters of it in a day. It is extremely suspenseful, especially through the use of flashbacks. Marwood doesn't reveal to the readers what truly happened that fateful day until the end of the book, and the build up creates a real sense of absolute dread.

Marwood also does a thorough and fascinating job of exploring the dark side of human nature--in particular, just how much a person can (or cannot) change--and how much society and the people around them will allow them to change.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I did feel like there were one or two too many subplots and characters. The book could have been tightened up a bit.

So...?

This was a quick, suspenseful read with very little light and some real surprises (including one surrounding a side character that really stuck with me). While this is not the best of this genre I've read, Marwood will suck you into the story and you will not be able to put this book down.


Saturday, July 22, 2017

Review: The Marriage Pact



Title: The Marriage Pact
Author: Michelle Richmond
Publication Date: July 25, 2017
Genre: Psychological/Suspense/Thriller
Recommended If You Like: creepy sinister groups, relationship-centered drama, lots of twists and turns, thrillers with a deep sense of dread

I received a copy 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:

Alice and Jake are newlyweds who get sent a seemingly well-meaning, if odd, gift-an invitation to join The Pact. The Pact is a group of married couples dedicated to ensuring that all their marriages survive and thrive.

Alice and Jake are in love, and want their marriage to succeed, so they accept the invitation. But they soon realize that what they signed up for is far darker and farther reaching then they had ever imagined.

What I Liked:

This is one of those books that keeps you with your heart in your throat. There is so much suspense, and the book manages to ride the fine line between horror and thriller, keeping you in a constant state of heightened fear for the characters.

There are so many amazing twists and turns in this book as well. One of the big reveals at the end took me completely by surprise.

Richmond has also created a very unique book, which is always exciting when an author is writing in a very popular genre. I loved that I never knew where this book was going, which just upped the suspense even more.

Anything I Didn't Like?

The very end was absolutely fine, but just didn't pack the punch the rest of the book did.

So...?

I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about this book, as the subject matter could have verged into cliched or cheesy, but Richmond made the story so unique and suspenseful, and even scary. I would definitely recommend this book.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Review: The Lying Game



Title: The Lying Game
Author: Ruth Ware
Publication Date: July 25, 2017
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Recommended If You Like: Ware's previous books, secrets from the past, explorations of female friendship

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:

When Isa gets a text from Kate, simply saying I need you, it takes her right back to her painful past. Isa and Kate, along with Fatima and Thea, were a clique of four at a boarding school, playing a game that seemed to be all for fun. But the Lying Game had consequences, consequences that are still reverberating in the present, threatening to blow apart their lives.

What I Liked:

This was such a suspenseful book! I couldn't put it down once I picked it up.

Ware is the master of the slow build. You know something is coming, as you watch the characters try to pretend everything will be fine--but there is always something (or someone) lurking around the corner, another shoe just waiting to drop. She plays that skill up once again in this book. You can't help but keep turning pages.

The reveals in this book almost entirely caught me completely by surprise. A few times I had inklings of what could be coming, but I was never able to figure out the full picture.

Ware also does a great job of examining what friendships are like between teenage girls. She perfectly captures the intensity of those bonds that can make you do anything for each other, that can linger even into adult lives.

Anything I Didn't Like?

It's really hard to find anything not to like about Ware's books. I don't think either this book or the previous one are as strong as her first book, but that doesn't mean I don't still really enjoy them.

So...?

I would absolutely recommend this book for anyone who loves a great book full of suspense and lots of twists and turns.




Thursday, July 20, 2017

True Crime Thursday: Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood


This is a fantastic, gripping, brilliant true crime book.

What I noticed about Tinseltown right from the start is that it reads like a novel. It felt like I had picked up a whodunit, and was completely sucked in. Mann has this great writing style that is so easy and fun to read.

This is also an absolutely fascinating story, one that has remained unsolved for decades. Mann tells the true tale of William Desmond Taylor, a director and actor in the Roaring Twenties, whose murder remains a mystery to this day. Books have been written, webzines have been crafted, and conspiracy theories have been spun, but Mann has what he believes to finally be the true solution.

And Mann backs his solution up with lots and lots of impeccable research. He paints a living, breathing picture of Hollywood in the 1920s, from the movies, to the people who strove to not only create them, but to create their own destinies as famous and beloved stars. Mann focuses on three of these female stars and their personal and professional struggles, but also weaves in so many other important Hollywood figures of that time, and makes them all come alive for readers.

This is a wide-reaching book of non-fiction. Mann manages to not only discuss and attempt to solve a murder, but writes of all the scandals, backstage dealings, and politics that surrounded and enfolded Hollywood at that time.

This is a book I would definitely recommend. It's one that will be joining my other true crime favorites on my bookshelves.

Monday, July 17, 2017

ALA Review: If I Was Your Girl



Title: If I Was Your Girl
Author: Meredith Russo
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Genre: Young Adult/LGBTQ
Recommended If You Like: timely and relevant reads, books that hit you in the heart, protagonists to root for, strong female protagonists

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

Note: Nothing in this review is a spoiler. Anything I discuss in this review is either general, or is stated in the book summary on the inside cover, Amazon, etc.

The Book:

Amanda moved in hopes of finding that typical teenage life. But when she makes friends, and begins to fall in love, she fears the secret she's carrying might tear all that apart-that she used to be Andrew.

What I Liked:

This is a book that feels important.

With everything going on in the world today, let alone in the United States, I think this is a book people need to read.

Amanda is a strong, smart, and brave girl, who I feel everyone can relate to, regardless of their own personal circumstances. The supporting characters surrounding her feel real, like people you might have gone to high school with. The book feels immediate, and the story will suck you in.

Anything I Didn't Like?

 I completely understand why Russo ended the book where and when she did, but I definitely was left wanting more. I would love to know about the next chapter of Amanda's life.


So...?

Russo has created a world and characters that feel so very relevant and important, wrapped up in a gripping story written beautifully. I definitely recommend this book.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Review: Bring Her Home


Title: Bring Her Home
Author: David Bell
Publication Date: July 11, 2017
Genre: Psychological Suspense/Mystery
Recommended If You Like: twists and turns, family drama, explorations of how well we can ever truly know someone

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:

Bill lost his wife less than two years ago, and now he fears he has lost his daughter, Summer, too. But when the police tell him Summer has been found after being missing for days, it seems too good to be true. As Bill sits by Summer's hospital bed, he has to wonder if he could be this fortunate to truly get his daughter back--and how well he really knows his own flesh and blood. What happened to Summer and her friend? And who exactly made them disappear?

What I Liked:

This is a book full of twists and turns, which I always love! Just when you think you have everything figured out, Bell throws another curve ball at you. The mystery is definitely a suspenseful one that kept me guessing.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I found it hard to like the character of Bill. I suspect at least a part of this was the author's purpose, but I think I was supposed to end up liking him more than I did. I of course was rooting for him to be safely reunited with his daughter, but he had a lot of major character flaws that didn't really seem to be counterbalanced or resolved in any way.

I also was able to predict one of the twists almost entirely, which did take away a bit of the surprise.

So...?

While I prefer other writers' psychological suspense, I always enjoy Bell's books. He spins a good mystery. I'm just always left wanting a little bit more.




Sunday, July 9, 2017

Review: A Girl Called Vincent



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

Title: A Girl Called Vincent
Author: Krystyna Poray Goddu
Publication Date: April 1, 2016
Genre: Non-Fiction/Middle Grade/Biography
Recommended If You Like: biographies of strong smart women, poetry (especially Edna St. Vincent Millay's)

The Book:

Goddu tells the true story of the fascinating life of renowned female poet Edna St. Vincent Millay.

What I Liked:

This book flew by! I finished it in just a few hours. It's absolutely fascinating and really well-written. I closed the book feeling I had learned so much, and had a lot of fun doing so.

Anything I Didn't Like?

There's really nothing not to like about this book. It is aimed towards middle schoolers, but I  feel adults can and should read it too.

So...?

I would definitely recommend this book. It's a great, fun way to learn about a fascinating women and be introduced to her poetry.


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Review: Watch Me Disappear




Title: Watch Me Disappear
Author: Janelle Brown
Publication Date: July 11, 2017
Genre: Psychological Suspense/Mystery
Recommended If You Like: secrets from the past, family dramas

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:

When Billie, wife and mother, disappears while hiking alone, it leaves her husband and daughter in heartbreaking turmoil. One year later, they are struggling to move on, Jonathan writing a memoir about his life with Billie, Olive attempting to find her place in school and the world.

But when Olive starts having visions of her mother, she believes Billie is telling her to come find her, that she is still alive somewhere. As she brings Johnathan into her plan to locate her mother, father and daughter learn things about Billie they might not ever have wanted to know.

What I Liked:

This is a book that kept me constantly engaged and interested--it absolutely flew by. The characters are compelling and complex, as are the central mysteries. Brown carefully doles out revelations that keep readers guessing, and excerpts from Johnathan's memoir influence and also mirror back the way readers are feeling at that moment. And the revelation in the last chapter is amazing! It's one of those that completely got me, and made me gasp out loud.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I did call the other big revelation a couple chapters before it happened. I also felt that the side character of Billie's best friend didn't necessarily serve a key purpose, and was a bit irritating as a character.

So...?

I really enjoyed this book, and would definitely recommend it. It's gripping, clever, and surprising, with complex characters and an in-depth exploration of just how well we can ever really know those we love.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Two ALA Reviews: The Day I Died, and The Mesmerist

I received copies of these two books from the publishers at ALA in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the books or my reviews itself.





Title: The Day I Died
Author: Lori Rader-Day
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Genre: Psychological/Suspense/Mystery
Recommended If You Like: strong female protagonists, mysteries centered around secrets from the past

The Book:

Anna Winger lives an isolated existence, keeping herself and her son as separate from the world--and her past-- as she can. She makes a living from analyzing other people's handwriting, searching for clues about who they truly are. When the police call on her to help with the case of a missing boy, her past begins to bleed into her present in all the ways she had fought so hard to prevent.

What I Liked:

Anna is a fantastically strong, complex, and fascinating character. She feels so real, and I was rooting for her the entire book.

Her profession as a handwriting analyst was also fascinating. I loved the way Rader-Day weaved it into the book, and loved learning more about how handwriting analyst works and is used.

The dual mysteries, of the missing boy and of Anna's past, were very intriguing. Rader-Day uses flashbacks and small clues to keep readers guessing and intrigued.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I was able to figure out the solution to one of the main mysteries pretty early on. This was a bit disappointing, as I prefer it when, with a book centered around secrets from the past, the secrets come as a big surprising twist to me.

So...?

Rader-Day has a good writing style that lends itself well to this genre. She has created a strong complex protagonist in Anna, and weaved a compelling story around her. The solution to the second of the two mysteries caught me completely by surprise, and made for a gripping read.



Title: The Mesmerist
Author: Ronald L. Smith
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Genre: Middle Grade/Horror/Supernatural/Paranormal
Recommended If You Like: strong female protagonists, spooky supernatural middle grade reads, kids being the heroes

The Book:

Jessamine Grace and her mother make money off playacting at spiritualism, but never off truly communicating with the dead--until one day, when a mysterious message appears on a slate Jessamine is holding. This leads Jessamine to a group of children like her, who may be the only hope to save their city from supernatural foes.

What I Liked:

This was a really fun read! It moves quickly, and has a lot of (age-appropriate) scares. The supernatural elements were well-done and definitely creepy.

Jessamine is a strong, smart, female character that I was definitely rooting for, and I really liked the characters of the other children as well.

Anything I Didn't Like?

On occasion, the language felt a bit stilted. I think this might have been because of the author working to capture the spirit and signature of the age, but it did take me out of the book a bit.

So...?

This book will take you little time to read, and is a lot of fun. This has the potential to continue on as a good series that kids and adults can both enjoy.



Tuesday, July 4, 2017

ALA Children's Book Roundup

At the most recent ALA, I was lucky enough to get to combine my love of teaching, books, and blogging! I received ARCs of some really fantastic children's books I can't wait to use in my Pre-K classroom this coming school year!


This is a really fun read that teaches kids about what it means to be a nocturnal animal, and what it means to find and be a friend. There's some great vocabulary in here that students might not already know, and some great moments of humor as well.


This is a great book to teach kids about the rainforest, and introduce them to poetry. The book contains poetry by the children's poet laureate that is short and fun, and full of information about the rainforest. There is also a section in the back of facts and vocabulary.


I cannot wait to use this book in my classroom! What I especially love about is that it does not label a talkative child as a problem. Rather, it uses a clever story to show children the importance of being a good listener as well. It offers concrete tips for children, parents, and educators about ways to encourage a child's curiosity and desire to share, while helping them balance truly listening to others as well.


This is a beautifully written, beautifully illustrated book that tells the story of Harriet Tubman, taking readers back through her life. What I really enjoyed was that this book uses such lyrical writing, and explains this piece of history in a way younger children can understand. I would hope reading this to students would lead them to seek out more information and books on Tubman.


I'm a big fan of this publisher for books that tackle social emotional topics, and this new series does not disappoint. I think this book would be a great one to read to get children talking about being scared, and how to overcome their fears. It has a positive ending, also covers ways to be a good friend, and has tips for parents and teachers in the back.


Sorting is probably my favorite math concept to teach! I'm always looking for ways to combine math and literacy, so finding this book made me so happy. This would be a great way to introduce my students to different ways of sorting-and they could use the pictures to guess how Sam sorted. I also like that this book brings in other concepts such as shapes, colors, and rhymes.


This is a great introduction to pre-writing, and how much fun making up your own story can be. I would love to use this to inspire my students to start writing their own stories, even if they are simply starting with a squiggle. 


I love that this book encourages children to try, and not worry about perfection. I would love to use this book to start having my students sound out their names, with whatever letters they hear, as a way to introduce letter sounds and writing, and have fun doing it!



Monday, July 3, 2017

Review: The False Friend



Title: The False Friend
Author: Myla Goldberg
Publication Date: August 23, 2011
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Recommended If You Like: psychology with your suspense, books examining childhood, reverberations from the past, the questioning of memories

The Book:

Celia's childhood best friend went missing two decades ago, something Celia has tried her hardest to accept and move on from. But suddenly, she starts remembering what truly happened that day so many years ago. The only problem is, no one believes her-and she's beginning to wonder if she can trust her own mind.

What I Liked:

This is such a great concept. I love books centered around secrets from the past, the questioning of the reliability of memories, and the examination of the stories we tell ourselves and others.


Anything I Didn't Like?

While I am okay with ambiguous or open-ended endings when they serve a purpose, this just felt unfinished. The last page feels tacked on and almost renders meaningless everything that came before.

It was also hard to connect with any of the characters, especially the main characters. Despite Goldberg's attempt to highlight how our present selves might not even recognize (or admit to) who were as children, her characters felt somewhat one-dimensional and stuck in place.

Also, just as a warning for readers, there are some very descriptive paragraphs of childhood bullying that can be very difficult to read. These are actually where Goldberg's writing really comes alive, as she makes these scenes painfully vivid and heartrendingly real.

So...?

I had such high hopes for this book, but I just didn't love it. It was good enough to hold my interest and keep me flipping pages, but I think that was from holding out hope that the fascinating concept would come to fruition. In the end, I just felt unsatisfied.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Review: Ten Dead Comedians



Title: Ten Dead Comedians
Author: Fred Van Lente
Publication Date: July 11, 2017
Genre: Mystery/Humor
Recommended If You Like: unique homages to And Then There Were None, the killer is one of us, comedy 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:

A group of stand up comedians is brought to a mysterious isolated island, seemingly to be part of a new project by the most famous comedian in existance. But they quickly discover not all is what it seems, as they begin to be killed off one by one.

What I Liked:

I'm immediately in for any book that is an homage to And Then There Were None, one of my top three favorite books of all time. I loved all the little touches that referenced the mystery great, whether it was the island setting, or the headshots on the wall (instead of little statues), or the video accusation (instead of a record). What also drew me to this book is that it promised to be a decidedly unique take on a classic with the cast of characters Van Lente presented.


This was a mystery that definitely kept me guessing! There were a lot of great twists and turns, especially a well-done big twist at the end.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I felt the motivation behind the killings rang a little thin. It didn't seem enough necessarily within the context of the book for the murderer to have gone to such great lengths to kill this specific group of people.

It was also sometimes hard, I felt, to translate stand up comedy to the written page. There were a lot of transcripts of monologue performances that didn't always work for me.

So...?

If you are looking for a quick mystery read that is a fun, unique take on one of the best mysteries of all time, I would recommend this book. I had fun reading it, and it flew by.



Friday, June 30, 2017

Review: You'll Never Know, Dear



Title: You'll Never Know, Dear
Author: Hallie Ephron
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Recommended If You Like: strong female characters, psychologically-driven suspense, family-centered mysteries

I received a copy 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:

Lis' sister, Janey, went missing one day from their own backyard. Forty years later, a woman turns up with Janey's doll, setting in motion a series of events that will change the lives of multiple generations.

What I Liked: 

I love a book that deals with secrets from the past, and this is a book that definitely does that. There are so many questions and twists that come up throughout the whole book, and so many mysteries to solve.

There are some really great, complex characters in this book.The main characters are all women, all strong in their own right, but with their own struggles and secrets. Everything the characters are now is somehow linked to that fateful disappearance from the past, even Lis' daughter who wasn't born when the tragedy occurred.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I sometimes felt like there was too much going on. Reveals would sometimes seem to come out of left field, and it could get difficult to keep everything straight sometimes.

So...?

This may not be the best psychological suspense I've ever read, but I did enjoy it. I read it in about a day, and found myself not wanting to put it down because I had to find out what happened.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Blog Tour and Review: The Child


 


Press Release:


This summer FIONA BARTON is back with a second novel that proves lightning can strike twice.

Barton’s 2016 debut, The Widow, was an instant global bestseller, captivating readers around the world and setting the publishing industry abuzz.

The highly-anticipated release of THE CHILD (Berkley Hardcover; June 27, 2017) reaffirms Barton’s growing reputation as a writer of rich, character-driven suspense novels. Like Tana French, Louise Penny, and Megan Abbott, Barton’s stories do more than thrill: they explore the complexities of a changing world.

The Widow delved into the secrets that exist within a marriage and the reporter’s role as voyeur.  Here Barton continues to mine those themes. THE CHILD tackles the 24/7 news cycle, and lays bare the intricacies of a different but equally fascinating relationship—mother and child.

Says Barton: “The emotions, responsibilities—and the pain—of motherhood are unique to each of us with children. Ask any woman and she will have her own story to tell.”

In a working class neighborhood of London, construction workers make a grisly discovery: the long-buried remains of a baby.  When a newspaper mention reveals the find, most readers barely give it a glance. But for two women, its threat to unearth hidden stories is impossible to ignore. For veteran reporter, Kate Waters (introduced in The Widow), it sparks the question “Who would bury a baby?” and starts a hunt for the truth about the nameless child. The story unfolds via the women’s alternating perspectives to eventually reveal: Who is Building Site Baby?

In fact, it was the allure of a hidden story that propelled Barton to her long-time career in news. A journalist and British Press Awards “Reporter of the Year,” she has worked at the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph, and brings that experience to bear in her novels.

In THE CHILD she details how Kate’s lengthy investigation into Building Site Baby’s death represents a perilous breach of the newsroom’s new culture of 24/7 online news. Says Barton: “The danger for Kate is that she risks becoming one of the dinosaurs—sidelined because she is unable and unwilling to be part of the revolution. And I feel for her.”
Though THE CHILD delivers an evocative look at the changing face of journalism, and a delicious plot twist, it is the characters’ haunting and rich emotional lives that set Barton apart and confirm her stature as a crime novelist of the first order.


My Review:

What I loved about this book was how many twists and turns there were. Barton, as she did in The Widow, keeps her readers on their toes. 

She does this really effectively through having each chapter alternate points of view. This enables Barton to add layer upon layer to the story without giving everything away. A character may drop a hint about something, and then readers find themselves in another character's head, looking at everything a different way.

I also really liked that Barton brought Kate back, a character from The Widow, and made her such a focus in this story. Kate is a strong, smart female character who works well as the backbone of The Child.

The one thing I didn't love about this book was I did feel I was able to call some of the bigger twists towards the end. I would have liked to be a little more surprised at some points. 

If you liked The Widow, or if you're a fan in general of well-crafted psychological thrillers with lots of suspense, I would definitely recommend The Child.