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.


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.


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.


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.


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,


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.


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.


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.