Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Hidden Gems in Mysteries, Thrillers, and True Crime

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

This week's topic was hidden gems. I interpreted this as books that don't have as much love as I wish they did, and went with books in my favorite genres to read.

These are the first two books that always come to mind when I think of hidden gems. I love these books so much-they are brilliant thrillers full of unique literary mystery and nail-biting psychological suspense. They are so clever, and so different from other thrillers, and I've re read them so many times. 

With James having a second true crime book coming out, this seems the perfect time to remind people just how good his first true crime book is. It's an incredibly unique and comprehensive look at so many famous and lesser-known crimes. 

I would never have heard of this book if it hadn't been a giveaway at ALA one year, and I'm so glad it was available, because it's so good. It's another really unique read, the true story of the author's friendship in college with someone who later becomes a murderer. 

This is one of my favorite true crime series. There are multiple editions, and it collects what the editing panel considers the best articles and essays about crime from the given year. You're able to read such a great variety, and hit the highlights of that year in true crime writing.

This series is a joy for mystery lovers. Each book is centered around a different famous mystery author, and you get lots of background information on the author and their works while enjoying a fun mystery and strong lead character.

This is a really fun middle-grade mystery with a great female lead detective, and fun illustrations.

A quirky famous detective and his determined ward investigate mysterious crimes that no one else can solve.

To me, this is one of the most fascinating cases of mysterious unsolved death ever recorded, and this book posits a really interesting and well-researched theory.

This book posits a fascinating and captivating theory about one of the most famous psychological cases ever recorded, and suggests that those in charge may have perpetrated a truly tragic crime against a fellow human being.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Review: Camp So-And-So

This is a weird and wonderful book.

It ostentatiously tells the story of a group of girls who are mailed invitations to attend a summer camp, and who accept these invitations, ready to head off to what they assume will be a week full of smores, songs and sleeping under the stars.

But this story goes places they, and you,will never see coming.

The mysterious narrator had me guessing from the start, as did the unique structure of the book, set up as if it was being run as a play (though the chapters are in prose, not script). There's the group facing off against their rich archenemy camp across the lake, the group running from a murderously mad former camper, the group on a heroic quest, the group who seem to have found their soulmates, and the group just trying to survive as their cabin turns against them.

McCoy plays with popular narrative tropes from both movies and books, and gives readers a fabulous Cabin in the Woods-esque feel, where we know from the start that our expectations and understandings of human nature are being toyed with by a talented writer who has so much more going on than meets the eye.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

ARC August #6: The Other Girl

Title: The Other Girl
Author: Erica Spindler
Publication Date: August 22, 2017
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Recommended If You Like: strong female sleuths, secrets from the past, twists and turns

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:

Miranda Rader, a police officer in a small town, is called to a horrific crime scene. But when she gets there, she discovers a newspaper clipping from fifteen years ago, all about the crime in her past she's tried her hardest to forget. As Miranda attempts to discover how her past and the murder victim's present are connected, she will be forced to confront the truth about that terrible night so many years ago.

What I Liked:

This book was extremely suspenseful. I love a story concerning secrets from the past coming into the present, and Spindler integrated the past and present really well. The flashbacks added to the suspense, and were a really important part of the plot.

I really liked the character of Miranda-she was strong, smart, and determined.

I was also really surprised by all the plot twists. I never had the story figured out, which is always a lot of fun, especially with all the mysteries I read.

Anything I Didn't Like?

While I really liked the romance, I felt the writing of it was a little cliched.


This is a quick, gripping read that will keep you in suspense and have you turning pages.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Review: One of Us is Lying

The testimony to how much I enjoyed this book was that, even as a teacher with my school year starting up again, and my three year old students now back, I could not put this book down. I was exhausted, and my head was full of lesson plans, but this book had me hooked.

When a group of five students ends up in detention, only four of them walk out of it alive. As the media and their fellow students spread gossip and rumors, the four suspects must figure out who to trust, and who is lying.

McManus keeps the twists and turns coming, and the characters are really compelling. I found myself constantly surprised by this book, and having to know what happened next. And I definitely didn't see the ending coming.

I'm really looking forward to seeing what McManus writes next!

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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