Sunday, January 29, 2017

Mini-Reviews: Murder is Bad Manners, Daddy Long-Legs, Animal Farm, and The Last Lecture

This weekend, I really felt the need to recharge, and decided to do a mini informal readathon. I was able to read some really great books:

This is a very fun, light, well-done middle grade mystery, The main characters, Daisy and Hazel, are great female leads, strong in their own right, and remind me of Friday Barnes, another middle-grade mystery series I really enjoy. In this first entry in the series, Daisy and Hazel must solve the mystery of the murder of one of their teachers, even though no one else believes she is actually dead.

My dad recommended this one to me-it's one of his favorites, and fit a category in the Popsugar Reading Challenge. I think it can be really hard to pull off a book that is solely in letter form-especially when the letters are only from one character-but Webster does a great job of making Judy's world come alive. Judy is a vibrant, entertaining, highly likable character (an orphan sent to college by a mysterious anonymous benefactor, to whom she writes), and this is a quick, delightful read.

I still can't believe I made it through high school and college (as an English major, no less!) without having ever read this book. Not only did it fill a Popsugar Reading Challenge category for me, but it is a read that seems extremely timely with everything going on, and is extremely well-written.

This is also a read for the Popsugar Reading Challenge, and an incredibly inspiring one. Pausch makes me want to follow my dreams, believe in myself, and give back to the world.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Review: Don't Turn Out the Lights

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.

Title: Don't Turn Out the Lights
Author: Bernard Minier
Publication Date: December 6, 2016
Genre: Mystery/Psychological Thriller/Suspense
Recommended If You Like: dark, twisty, character-driven psychological thrillers

The Book:

There's someone out there, stalking women, harassing them and destroying their lives until they feel they have no choice but to commit suicide. When a detective on sick leave receives a hotel room key to a room one of those women stayed in, he is drawn into a twisted game with deadly consequences.

What I Liked:

There are a lot of great twists and turns in this mystery. There was one towards the end, a big reveal, that made me gasp out loud. Minier does an excellent job of laying down red herrings to keep readers guessing.

This is a complex layered mystery. Nothing and no one are what they seem at first glance. Minier creates an atmosphere that is almost suffocating, where readers feel the fear right along with the characters.

Anything I Didn't Like?

It was hard to find a likable character in this book. I highly suspect this was on purpose, as Minier seems to be playing with the idea that not only is no one who they seem, but no one is truly good or evil.

This book also tended to move a little slowly. I felt like there were parts and descriptions, and character musings, that could have been shortened or even cut out completely.


This book took me a while to read. Even though I was highly intrigued by the mystery, the lack of likable characters and the occasional bursts of long-winded paragraphs kept me from getting completely sucked in. But the mystery was quite good, and kept me interested, and once the story picked up, it had me gripped.

Just a note, that this is not the first in the series, and there are some continuing character storylines that I feel like I would have understood and been more involved in had I read the previous books.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Books to Read on a Winter's Night

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

This week is a freebie, so I decided to go with Ten Books to Read on a Winter's Night.

This one is absolutely a bit on the nose ;D but it's the one that got me thinking about doing this for my freebie topic. Conan Doyle spins an always-engrossing mystery that is perfect for curling up with when it's too cold to go outside, and the short story format makes it easy to find a stopping point to go make some hot chocolate.

Nesbo manages to make a snowman incredibly creepy and eerie. This will make you skirt a big path around any snowmen you see outside during the winter months!

This eerie story takes place during the winter months, and involves a mysterious disappearance in a remote and isolated area. McMahon will have you checking the locks on your windows and doors as the snow piles up outside.

The snow is piling high, and a group are having a seance that predicts a murder.

A mystery surrounding a group of students snowbound on campus, trapped by their own pasts and desires.


These two Christie's center around people being snowed in with a murderer.

Winter, and the ensuing snow, make an eerie and isolated location even creepier.

This is the creepiest true story to ever take place in the snow.

Snow plays a key role in this mystery set around Christmas-time. 

What are some of your favorite winter reads?

Monday, January 23, 2017

Reviews: Second Life, and Tales for a Winter's Night

Title: Second Life
Author: SJ Watson
Publication Date: June 9, 2015
Genre: Mystery/Psychological Suspense/Thriller
Recommended If You Like: twists and turns, mysteries involving the internet

The Book:

When Julia's sister is murdered, Julia knows she must find out why, and by who, or it will consume her. Joining the online site her sister had used to meet strangers, Julia finds herself drawn in, and unable to find her way out.

What I Liked:

This book has a lot of twists and turns, which I always appreciate. There's a lot of layers to characters, and so many people are more than they first appear.

Anything I Didn't Like?

This book felt predictable in a lot of places, unfortunately. I called one of the biggest twists chapters before it actually happened.

The book also felt pretty slow at times, and then the ending seemed rushed, like Watson wanted to fit in more revelations.


I loved Before I Go to Sleep. It's one of those books I own my own copy of, have re read, and have recommended to friends. But Second Life just wasn't as good--it was one of those books that is just okay, which coming from an author I've previously loved, was definitely a disappointment.

This was such a treat! I love Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes' stories, and it was a lot of fun to get to read some of his other mysteries. These short stories have a similar flare to the Holmes' stories, with tricky cases that seem to have no solution, until Doyle spins one. I definitely recommend this one for mystery and Holmes lovers alike.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Review: The Big Book of Jack the Ripper

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

Title: The Big Book of Jack the Ripper
Editor: Otto Penzler
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
Genre: Mystery/Short Stories/True Crime
Recommended If You Like: theories and stories about the infamous Jack the Ripper, well-curated anthologies

The Book:

Penzler has collected a large group of wide-ranging short pieces on Jack the Ripper, including non-fiction essays, famous stories like The Lodger, and less well-known speculative fiction.

What I Liked:

Penzler did a brilliant job of curating this collection. There are some really strong pieces in this book, and there were a lot of stories and authors I had never heard of before, even though I had previously read a lot on Jack the Ripper.

Anything I Didn't Like?

As in any anthology, there will always be some pieces that read as weaker than others. But there were very few of those instances in this collection.


If you are interested in Jack the Ripper, I highly recommend this book. It's a great mix of fact and fiction, including everything from essays stating the facts to stories involving time travel.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Review: Her Every Fear

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: Her Every Fear
Author: Peter Swanson
Publication Date: January 10, 2017
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Psychological Thriller
Recommended If You Like: The Kind Worth Killing, Hitchcock-like psychological thrillers

The Book:

Kate Priddy is still recovering from her kidnapping at the hands of an ex-boyfriend, and an apartment swap with her distant cousin seems like the ideal way to get away from it all. Traveling from London to Boston, Kate hopes this is the key to getting over her fears. But when her new next-door neighbor is murdered, Kate realizes her fears may be hitting all too close to home.

What I Liked:

This is a book full of twists and turns, and some highly creepy characters. In fact, this is a really creepy book, one of those eerie ones that has you second-guessing everything you're reading. There's a part towards the end that is downright terrifying.

Swanson is constantly turning what you think you know on its head, which is something I really appreciate in any mystery or thriller I'm reading.

Anything I Didn't Like?

The last third of the book feels too rushed. Swanson has done a great job building up all this nail-biting suspense, and then everything just kind of happens at once. Everything that happens is creepy, and surprising, but it all gets a bit mushed together, and seems less plausible, due to the speed at which the plotting suddenly moves.


I really enjoyed The Kind Worth Killing, and thought it was absolutely brilliant, especially the way Swanson expertly flipped around everything readers were taking for granted in his story. He does something similar here, but not to the same effect. Her Every Fear would have benefited from a few extra pages, and some time to let Swanson's great twists really sing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

What We're Reading Wednesday: January 18, 2017

I was so excited to get this from my parents' for the holidays! It's my before bed book because it's too heavy to carry around in my purse to and from work.

I'm almost done with The Big Book of Jack the Ripper, and it continues to be a really well-curated collection. Her Every Fear is the new book from the author of The Kind Worth Killing, which I loved, and so far Swanson's newest is really suspenseful and intriguing. 


Second Life is one of my library books I've been meaning to get to for a while. I loved Watson's previous book, Before I Go to Sleep, so I have high hopes for this one. Tales For a Winter's Night just seems highly appropriate for the weather my city has been having lately, plus I love Conan Doyle.

What are you reading this week?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday, and Mini Reviews!

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

This week' theme is Ten Underrated/Hidden Gem Books I've Read in the Last Year or So:

The most adorable, heartwarming, funny graphic novel with a dog as the narrator

A must-read for Agatha Christie fans, a collection of critical essays examining different aspects of Christie's work

From what I understand, this book isn't as big in the US as it is in Australia, and I would love to see more US readers pick it up--Friday Barnes is a strong female heroine that's a cross between Nancy Drew and Sherlock Holmes

A really well-done, eerie, creepy psychological read

A spooky, creative entry in the young adult paranormal genre

Another strong female heroine, and a story full of art and history

A fascinating examination of what scares us and why 

A very unsettling, extremely well written psychological read with an incredible twist ending

A unique, well-researched look at Sherlock Holmes and his cases through a forensic lens

A graphic novel take on Agatha Christie's life, especially the period of her disappearance 


Mini Reviews!

This is definitely a must-read for all fans of Hamilton the Musical. Not only does the book include all the lyrics, with Lin Manuel Miranda's own notes, but beautiful photos of the show as well, and essays on the process of making this musical a reality. 

This book was recommended to me by a friend, who had it recommended to her by multiple people as one of their favorite books, and I can see why. This is a beautifully written story of a boy and girl wrestling with deeply tragic pasts, that manages to avoid all cliches.

This is another entry in my friend's mystery series, this time centered around a tragic accident from the past with deep repercussions in the present.

The first entry in a series, this is a clever, fun middle grade mystery read centered around a group of four children who live in a Dime Museum as part of the show. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Review: Trust No One

Title: Trust No One
Author: Paul Cleave
Publication Date: June 7, 2016
Genre: Mystery/Psychological Thriller
Recommended If You Like: books about writers, dark twisty reads, unreliable narrators

The Book:

Jerry Grey writes bestselling crime thrillers under the pseudonym Henry Cutter. But now Jerry has Alzheimer's, and is confessing that the crimes in his books are real.

What I Liked: 

When this book gets going, it really gets going! I put aside everything else I was reading to keep reading this book, because I had to know what was going to happen.

This is also a really interesting concept, the idea that a crime writer has truly written what he knows (advice he gives to aspiring writers).

Anything I Didn't Like:

When this book wasn't moving fast, though, it was moving slow. Some parts really dragged.


This book took me a while to read, because of the slow parts, but when it got good, it was really good. At some point I can see myself reading other books by this author.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Reviews: Everything You Want Me to Be, and How to Be a Woman

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: Everything You Want Me to Be
Author: Mindy Mejia
Publication Date: January 3, 2017
Genre: Psychological Suspense/Thriller/Mystery
Recommended If You Like: twisty mysteries, unreliable narrators, flashbacks, psychological characterizations

The Book:

Hattie is a high school senior who thinks she has discovered the key to success in life--be a great actress, and play the roles each person wants from her. But then she is murdered, and secrets of her inner life, and the small town she lived in, are revealed.

What I Liked:

Mejia uses three narrators to tell the story, and she uses them well. Each storyteller-Hattie herself, the town sheriff, and the new English teacher-bring something new and important to the tale. And each of the three are hiding things, big and small, that makes a reader wonder just how much they can be trusted.

The structure of the book works really well as well. While the book itself opens with Hattie's murder, Hattie tells her story from many months before. Readers know where her tragic tale is going to end, but Hattie does not, and this builds up a sense of foreboding and suspense.

The twists are well-plotted and the mystery is an intriguing one.

Anything I Didn't Like?

There really wasn't anything I didn't like in this book. 

The only thing I would say is that, in my opinion, I didn't find it as good as works by Gillian Flynn, for example (an author Mejia is already being compared to). This was a good book, I just didn't love it as much as some of my absolute favorites. It's a book I really enjoyed reading, but don't see myself needing to own or re read.


I would definitely recommend fans of psychological thrillers pick this one up. It's a well-told, complex story with an excellent mystery woven in.

Title: How to Be a Woman
Author: Caitlin Moran
Publication Date: March 1, 2012
Genre: Non-fiction/Memoir/Humor
Recommended If You Like: inspiration, strong intelligent opinions mixed with biting wit, laughing out loud while thinking too, truth

The Book:

Caitlin Moran tells the true story of her life, and how she learned how to be a woman.

What I Liked:

Moran is one of those brilliant authors who can make you think, tug on your heartstrings, and then have you laughing uproariously (out loud on a bus, in my case).

Anything I Didn't Like?

This is another book that, like in the previous review, suffers a bit from comparison. We are lucky enough to have so many brilliant, funny women writing their truth, that there are a lot of excellent books out there in this same genre Moran is writing in. To me, I still prefer Jenny Lawson and Tina Fey, but that doesn't mean I can't still really like what Moran is doing here. 


This is one of those books it just feels really important to read, given everything going on in the world right now--and it's an enjoyable read too.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Review: Looming Murder

Title: Looming Murder
Author: Carol Ann Martin
Publication Date: June 4, 2013
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Recommended If You Like: vivid descriptions of beautiful crafts, starting a new series, cozy mysteries

The Book:

Della has left a big city to follow her dream and open a weaving shop. But when one of her customers is suspected of murder, Della has to become a detective as well.

What I Liked:

Martin does a great job of making Della's weaving shop and the craft itself come alive. The book made me want to take up weaving!

The solution to the mystery definitely features a surprising twist, which I really appreciated. I love a good twist I don't see coming.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I didn't love the main character, Della, like I wanted to. She comes off as a bit inconsistent, and so her choices can sometimes be a bit grating.


I'm not going to run out and buy the next book in this series. But if I see more entries in this series at a used bookstore or book fair, I suspect I would pick them up.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Reviews: Different Class, and The 4th Man

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: Different Class
Author: Joanne Harris
Publication Date: January 3, 2017
Genre: Psychological Suspense/Thriller/Mystery
Recommended If You Like: Gentlemen and Players, psychological thrillers, twisty mysteries, absolutely unreliable narrators

The Book:

Roy Straitley, the Latin Master at St. Oswald's, loves his school. It has his loyalty in a way no one and nothing else ever has. But bad things have happened at St. Oswald's. And bad things seem to be happening again--and they may just be tied to events from the past that no one wants to talk about.

What I Liked:

Harris is quite literally a genius when it comes to the trope of the unreliable narrator. Her narrators are so amazingly unreliable that you're not even sure who they are sometimes. She had me completely fooled with one of the narrators here, and when I realized how seamlessly I had been tricked, I actually gasped out loud. This is something she did to great effect in her previous book, Gentlemen and Players, also set at St. Oswald's. In the hands of a lesser writer, things could very easily have fallen apart, but Harris is a true master at this.

The twists and turns of this book will absolutely keep you guessing. The mystery is multi-layered and intriguing, and the use of flashbacks builds the suspense and tension to the breaking point.

Anything I Didn't Like?

Really, there was nothing I didn't like about this book. It wasn't quite as good as Gentlemen and Players, but it is hard for any book to live up to just how brilliant that book was.


Read this book! But read Gentlemen and Players first, so you understand all the character and plot references in Different Class. 

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

Title: The 4th Man
Author: Lisa Gardner
Publication Date: January 3, 2017
Genre: Mystery
Recommended If You Like: short story mysteries that pack a punch

The Book:

Five years after a college student was found strangled in the library stairwell, a cold case squad has narrowed the list of suspects down to three--and a possible fourth unknown man.

What I Liked:

Gardner is really good at writing short stories that are great mysteries in their own right. The concept for this one was really interesting, especially that the detectives had figured out a lie each suspect had told all those years ago, and were about to confront them with it.

Anything I Didn't Like?

The ending to the mystery was merely good, not great. It was based off a true story, but it felt like within the short story context, the ending was rushed. The story might have benefited from being fleshed out more.


At forty-seven pages, this is a quick read, and an interesting mystery. Pick it up if you have an hour or so.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Review: Black-Eyed Susans

Title: Black-Eyed Susans
Author: Julia Heaberlin
Publication Date: May 31, 2016
Genre: Psychological Suspense/Mystery/Thriller
Recommended If You Like: creepy psychological thrillers, flashbacks, unreliable narrators, mysteries with big twists

The Book:

Tessa Cartwright is the Black-Eyed Susan who survived. Kidnapped by a serial killer, found barely breathing in a mass grave, it was Tessa's testimony that cemented the state's case against the purported murderer.

But as patches of black-eyed susans pop up around her, Tessa is forced to reckon with the thought that she may have doomed an innocent man to the executioner's chair. Forced to do what she has avoided for so many years--examine her memories and drawings that emerged during her therapy sessions--Tessa struggles to discover the truth.

What I Liked:

That twist ending!! This is how a twist ending is done. It took my breath away. The revelations in the last few chapters will leave your mind reeling and have you flipping back to see what you missed.

I also really liked the use of flashbacks and trial transcripts. These techniques built up a lot of suspense as important information was gradually revealed.

Also, Tessa is a strong and complex character you can't help but root for. She has gone through so much, and is so determined to put things right.

Anything I Didn't Like?

It took me a little while to get into this book. I just felt like things were moving a little slowly at first, and thus it was taking me longer to read.


Read this book! This is one of the best twist endings I have read in a while. Even if you find it a bit slow-going at first like I did, absolutely keep going. This book is definitely worth a read.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Review: With Malice

Title: With Malice
Author: Eileen Cook
Publication Date: June 7, 2016
Genre: Young Adult/Mystery/Psychological Thriller
Recommended If You Like: young adult suspenseful reads, stories taking inspiration from the Amanda Knox case, books like Cartwheel and Dangerous Girls, shows like Guilt

The Book:

Jill wakes up in the hospital missing six weeks of her life-including the truth about the car crash that her best friend Simone died in.

What I Liked:

This was a book I absolutely could not put down. I read it in less than a day. It's so suspenseful, you just have to keep reading.

I really liked the way Cook integrated other types of media, such as interview transcripts, blogs, and TV news shows. Alternating these chapters with chapters narrated by Jill just contributed to the suspense.

Jill is a complex character, who Cook has managed to make sympathetic, even as readers know Jill is suspected of murdering her best friend. The stakes feel real, and important, and the mystery immense.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I'm someone who likes my mysteries completely tied up in a nice bow at the end of a book. Without giving away any spoilers, it was hard for me when there was ambiguity in this story, even though it made sense in the context of the novel.


This was a great first read for 2017. I'd be wanting to read this since last year, and it did not disappoint.